U.S. authorities in Mexico charged with stemming the flow of U.S. weapons to drug cartels have been hampered by shortfalls in staffing, agents with limited Spanish skills, and the difficulty of recruiting new agents to the dangerous posting because they can’t officially carry weapons, current and former staff members tell the Los Angeles Times. Facing new accusations that investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed buyers to funnel high-powered assault weapons into Mexico, a senior agent posted to Mexico before 2010 said the agency had not fielded the resources necessary to block mass movements of weapons across the Southwest border.
These movements have come under scrutiny amid revelations that ATF investigators delayed for months the arrests of suspected cartel gun buyers, allowing the flow of hundreds of weapons to Mexico in the hope of catching bigger buyers. The policy has outraged many agents and prompted a Senate investigation. Yesterday, most architects of the Phoenix-based operation, known as “Fast and Furious,” were called to Washington to discuss it. Rene Jaquez, a former ATF attache in Mexico, said U.S. agents there did not have the resources to run down gun smugglers effectively. Jaquez said ATF offices in Mexico were so short-staffed that agents were either forced to spend most of their time on paperwork or didn’t have necessary backup to safely do street work. “ATF has put all this money into Mexico, what have we done? How many guns have we stopped from coming into the country? Well, this whole scandal shows we’ve probably allowed more guns into the country than guns we’ve stopped,” Jaquez said.