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Mexico worried about U.S. arms plan

Aug. 22, 2012 at 3:24 PM

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- Talks on transferring some of Afghanistan's arms surpluses to the U.S.-Mexico border have raised concerns some weapons will end up in arsenals of drug cartels and organized crime.

Support for the handover of military surpluses to border law enforcement has come from both Democratic and Republican U.S. lawmakers but so far the proposal has received lukewarm support.

Negotiations on a possible sharing of the arsenal from Afghanistan continue both in Congress in Washington and in Texas.

The Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Office has distributed more than $468 million in surplus equipment in 2011, about $17.6 million of it in Texas.

A campaign for further transfers to the border was launched by U.S. Reps. Ted Poe, R-Texas, and Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, and backed by border sheriffs in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona.

A letter sent to U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta asked for early decision on further deliveries of surplus Afghanistan equipment to the border.

"Much of this equipment would be useful to the federal, state and local law enforcement in their efforts to secure the border with Mexico," the lawmakers said, in a follow-up to other moves in Congress to require the Pentagon to hand over up to 10 percent of the surplus to southern border agencies.

"State and local officials are on the front lines of the southern border fighting to protect Americans from spillover violence from Mexico," Poe said. "They are out-manned and out-gunned by the drug cartels and they are desperate for more resources."

Cuellar said federal help was needed to boost border security and to confront heavily armed cartels.

"We intend to keep the lines of communication open with the Defense Department so that we can help our border law enforcement agencies navigate the equipment application process," Cuellar said.

However, the lawmakers' requests coincide with reports that Mexican drug cartels and organized crime gangs are able to access U.S.-made weapons, raising risks they will seek to obtain the more sophisticated warzone weaponry as well.

Mexican government officials say most of the cartels' weapons are U.S. made, a claim regularly contested by the U.S. National Rifle Association.

WikiLeaks diplomatic cables revealed confidential texts that reported U.S. arms supplies to Honduras had ended up with Mexican drug cartels and gangs in Colombia.

The seized weapons included light anti-tank weapons and grenades supplied to Honduras under the Foreign Military Sales program.

Mexico is pushing for an international treaty to regulate the $70 billion international arms trade.

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