A restaurant manager in El Paso was part of a sophisticated arms-trafficking network that netted the biggest bust in the U.S. government's Operation Fast and Furious, according to private emails disclosed by WikiLeaks.
In 2009 the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives launched the controversial operation that allowed straw purchasers to buy firearms at U.S. gun stores. Under the operation -- designed to identify gun-trafficking masterminds -- the weapons were permitted to cross the border.
"(Twenty) people were arrested and 34 total indictments" came from the Fast and Furious investigation and arrests executed on Jan. 25, said Stratfor analyst Fred Burton in an email to fellow analyst Marko Papic. "A big deal. The investigation started thanks to intel that we shared with ATF."
The 2011 email is not clear on who tipped off the ATF about the gun smuggling ring led by Manuel Solis Acosta, who was arrested in 2011 on arms-trafficking charges.
The Stratfor email said Solis "went out and got 3 main straw purchasers. These 3 guys then went on to recruit (on average) 14 people each. They made contact with El Compa who runs a restaurant in El Paso immediately off (Interstate 10)."
"At this restaurant, in the back," the email goes on to say, "is a warehouse, where all the guns were later sent to SINALOA (the Joaquin 'Chapo' Guzman drug cartel).
"The traffickers knew that cars were being traced when they crossed southbound via Arizona
because Sedena (Mexico's military) and SRE (Mexico's foreign ministry) knew that guns from AZ were mainly going to that state. Ergo, they ran their entire stash house in Ep (El Paso) and then moved it by land and air to Sinaloa."
The traffickers also allegedly used the Tohono O'odham reservation to evade arrest "when things got hot in El Paso." The Native American reservation straddles the Arizona and Mexican border.
Stratfor's email also said that gun-trafficking rings were highly adaptive, "and use very, very advanced and creative techniques in smuggling southbound. As examples, Sinaloa cartel sought out armories that were closing, where any unsold goods automatically become part of private collections and are not subject to any checks, and offered to buy guns in bulk for a good sum. Also, we saw guns being smuggled in camouflage, parts on biked and in hoods of cars."
On Tuesday, the El Paso City Council adopted a resolution in support of a proposed voluntary gun sales code to increase transparency in the sales of firearms.
One of the points in the voluntary code calls for videotaping the point of sale for all firearms.
The resolution was presented by the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity led by Mexican poet Javier Sicilia. The caravan held a protest in front of the Drug Enforcement Administration offices in El Paso, and is headed to Washington, D.C., to highlight the drug violence in Mexico that's killed more than 50,000 people during President Felipe Calderon's term.
Stratfor, a private intelligence company based in Austin, will not comment on the contents of the emails, which it said were stolen by unknown hackers and given to WikiLeaks.
Another leaked Stratfor email, about a meeting in early 2010 at Fort Bliss, said U.S. and Mexican officials agree that U.S. undercover operatives in Mexico would be authorized to communicate directly with Mexican federal police regarding the drug cartels.
The email said "there is a (expletive) of them," meaning numerous such operatives, operating south of the border. The email also said that Mexican federal police were not experienced in hunting down cartels, because "they were trained to hunt down political dissidents and that they need help from DEA and FBI on how to deal with drug cartels."
The Stratfor email, sent by Scott Stewart to various people with Stratfor email addresses, also said that a Mexican diplomat indicated he was unsure that the Fort Bliss meeting was secure. "He fear that cartels are everywhere and that they have penetrated both U.S. and Mexican law enforcement."
Most Popular Stories
- Taco Bell Rings Up Breakfast Menu
- California Establishes Center for Coffee Study
- Visa, MasterCard Team Up to Focus on Payment Security
- Sunday Starts Daylight Saving Time
- Samsung Launches Milk Music
- Three Americans on Missing Malaysia Airlines Plane: State Department
- For Obama, a Last Stab at Improving Ties with Capitol Hill
- China Urges Malaysia Flight Emergency Response
- BofA CEO Gets a 77 Percent Pay Bump
- Russia, Crimea Discuss Referendum