New southern routes for arms trafficking in Mexico
Tepito has become the main weapons distribution center in Mexico – Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

New southern routes for arms trafficking in Mexico

Mexico City
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Due to increasing surveillance measures in the Mexico-U.S. border, new routes for arms smuggling have found their way to Mexico from the southern border with Guatemala and Belize, all the way from Nicaragua

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Increasing surveillance measures in the Mexico-U.S. border have generated new routes and ways for arms trafficking. Now, guns and rifles – such as AK-47 – do not only come from the U.S. but also from Central America.

There is a growing number of shipments from Nicaragua to Mexico by land through the borders with Guatemala or Belize. They arrive up to Tepito, which has become the biggest storage unit of weapons in the country, according to federal authorities.

Rifles and guns arrive in Mexico without being assembled in double depth trucks that have already been “approved” by corrupt authorities, who receive different sums in exchange.


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Last July 24, the Foreign Affairs Ministry (SRE) reported that, annually, approximately 200,000 firearms enter Mexico illegally from the United States.

Sources of the federal government revealed to EL UNIVERSAL that in response to the U.S. strategy on its southern border to stem migrant flows, organized crime has opened new routes to bring firearms to Mexico.

In addition to the entrance from the U.S., new weapons smuggling routes start from Nicaragua, where they are prepared in pieces for their delivery, distribution, and sale in Mexico; for approximately five years, Tepito has been the biggest illicit firearms distribution center in the country.


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EL UNIVERSAL went to the streets of Morelos borough and met with a man allegedly called “El Ñengo” and/or “El Chilango.” This man, of dark skin and medium height, was a police officer in Mexico City and has been openly trafficking all kinds of firearms in Tepito for six years, since he was dismissed from the corporation.

Covered by a ski-mask, he confirms that the entrance of arms starts from Nicaragua. From there, there are two gateways to national territory: from Belize to Quintana Roo, and from Guatemala to Chiapas, through a group called “Polleros.”

“There are cheap buses in Chiapas for MXN $400-450. They take you to Mixcalco market, but they are sponsored; they transport [cocaine] and weapons.


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“People arrive, park, they wash the bus and take out all the stuff; from there, they enter Tepito, escorted by the Public Security Ministry of [Mexico City] to the borough,” he says.

The man calls Number 1 as “The Boss,” who, he clarifies, is not directly involved with the arms trafficking business, but is in charge of those responsible for it.

“There’s another dude who is the second, the accountant, and they have ordered me sometimes to escort those buses,” says “El Chilango,” who clarifies that is how they call him in other states.


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The other route for arms smuggling to Mexico, he reveals, is through Belize in double depth vehicles.

He asserted that these passenger buses or cargo trucks are authorized to arrive in Mexico City without any obstacles and to unload in front of Arena Coliseo.

“All of them are marked. They have a specific stamp that upon seeing it, police officers do not stop them. They use TUM (United Mexican Carriers). No one robs them because they are highly armored,” adds the man, next to the “Santa Muerte.”


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He says that the disguise of these trucks is general freight transport. They bring sneakers, smuggled merchandise, anything that does not pay taxes and that goes directly to Tepito: “That’s a shit-ton of profit and they put the weapons inside. They’re trucks that not even the federal police are going to stop and if I want to rob them, I cannot stop them.

“Here in Tepito, [firearms] are only assembled and [their] boxes are made. A box is no problem because it is only plastic; they are portfolios for 380-mm, 9-mm, horns (AK-47), R-15, and anything you want, even 50-mm.

Escorted by armed people, “El Ñengo” looks at the street, mocks the police operation outside, pours himself a drink, prepares a line of cocaine, and continues: “I sell firearms to drug lords, police officers, intelligence services, and even groups of hitmen. Those in Public Security come for their rent and let you do whatever you want, the same with drugs.


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“They are in the parking lots and see who brings the van; they ask for MXN $2,000 and if it’s a big truck, MXN $5,000, no matter the load. No judicial [officer] can meddle because there are federal [officers] and from the SSP behind you.”

The catalog
The arsenal includes from low caliber weapons up to assault rifles, grenade launchers, fragmentation grenades, and 50-mm Barrett rifles, as the catalog shows. With a single message he asks his vendors: “What toys are available?” and he receives approximately 281 responses.

In graphs, he shows the kind of firearms that, he asserts, drug cartels have started to manufacture for their illicit activities: “Jalisco [New Generation] and Sinaloa [cartels] manufacture their weapons. The only thing cartels are doing is to support small gangs [in Mexico City], because they are not mafias; they give them weapons to kill each other, so that [cartels can] keep advancing and keeping the power.”


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Asked about the cost of firearms, “El Ñengo” says that all of them have a standard price: “You can get a 380-mm handgun for MXN $35 thousand; I get them for MXN $20 thousand or $25 thousand, but they all have a standard price of MXN $35 thousand. An assault rifle [AR-15] or a 7.62 [AK-47], cost MXN $70 thousand.

The man acknowledges that selling weapons in Tepito has become more difficult in recent weeks due to National Guard operations. That, he says, has increased the cost for clients twice, because of the risks. In addition to only being sold to clients they already know.


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