May 26, 2014
US Congressman wants Assessment of Gun Trafficking to Mexico
Office of Congressman Eliot
Representative Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today [May 20] called
on the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a new assessment on the effectiveness of efforts by
the U.S. government to curb the trafficking of firearms to Mexico. In a letter to GAO Comptroller General
Gene L. Dodaro, Rep. Engel requested information on the progress of agencies across government in meeting challenges in combating
illicit sales of firearms in the United States and stemming their flow into Mexico, including federal laws that restrict the
collection and reporting of data on firearms purchases.
“We must do much more to stop the illegal flow of firearms from the United
States to Mexico. In 2009, the Government Accountability Office released a report that I commissioned on
this issue. It showed that 87 percent of the firearms Mexican authorities seized and traced between FY 2004 and FY 2008 originated
in the United States,” Rep. Engel said at a Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the state of relations between the
United States and Mexico.
Text of the letter to GAO Comptroller General Dodaro follows:
May 20, 2014
The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro
U.S. Government Accountability Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20548
Dear Comptroller General
from the United States to Mexico continues to fuel violence by the country’s brutal transnational criminal organizations.
In June 2009, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conducted a review of firearms trafficking to Mexico and reported
that 87 percent of firearms seized by Mexican authorities and traced between FY 2004 and FY 2008 had originated in the United
GAO found that U.S.
government agencies faced several significant challenges combating illicit sales of firearms in the United States and stemming
their flow into Mexico, including federal laws that restrict the collection and reporting of data on firearms purchases. Your
report also drew attention to the lack of effective coordination between the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the primary agencies responsible for combating firearms trafficking. Similarly, GAO
reported on impediments to collaboration between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement agencies, notably concerns about corruption
among certain Mexican governmental entities. At that time, GAO made a number of recommendations to the U.S. Attorney General,
the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy to address the deficiencies identified
in government efforts. I understand that agencies have taken action on all of your recommendations but one, focusing on the
need to report on constraints they previously identified to their efforts to conduct investigations.
I am particularly interested in
knowing what progress our government continues to make regarding the challenges the report identified. As such, I request
you undertake a follow-up review of U.S. efforts to stem the flow of firearms into Mexico and address the following questions:
What have been the trends in firearms trafficking to Mexico over the past five years? Please provide
information on the annual percentage of firearms recovered in Mexico and traced which originated in the United States, the
types of firearms smuggled into Mexico and whether the U.S. remains a significant source of illicit firearms used to commit
crimes in that country. Please also provide information on the annual percentage of firearms recovered
in Mexico and traced which were trafficked from the United States but were originally imports into the United States from
third countries. To the extent possible, please identify what countries these firearms came from.
How has collaboration between the Department of State and U.S. law enforcement agencies with Mexican counterparts evolved
over the past five years? How effective has the deployment of Spanish language eTrace been in tracing firearms seized in Mexico?
To what extent do eTrace numbers reflect the total amount of firearms trafficked from the United States to Mexico?
To what extent has the Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy advanced U.S. government efforts to combat arms trafficking?
What actions, if any, have U.S. law enforcement authorities taken to stem the flow of firearms to Mexico from the Southwest
5) To what extent have U.S. government agencies improved efforts to collect and report
data related to illicit firearms trafficking to Mexico? Specifically, have the Departments of Justice and the Homeland Security
effectively collaborated on efforts to collect and report data on firearms seizures, investigations, and prosecutions of arms
traffickers? Similarly, has the Department of Justice taken any steps to address the data collection constraints its officials
noted during your prior review that were inhibiting their ability to conduct timely firearms trafficking investigations?
The State Department has indicated that the United States is in compliance with the Inter-American Convention Against
the Illicit Manufacturing of and Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives, and Other Related Materials (CIFTA).
Can you please review and confirm the validity of this assessment?
7) To what extent are
U.S. government agencies providing support to the Mexican, Guatemalan and Belizean governments to stop firearms trafficking
at their shared border? Please assess the effectiveness of any assistance that is being provided.
During the review, please
keep Eric Jacobstein on the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff apprised of your plans and the progress of your work.
Eliot L. Engel
Congressman Eliot Engel: "Engel calls
for new assessment of efforts to curb gun trafficking in Mexico," May 20, 2014, Washington, DC