A scandal involving US law enforcement programs to let guns “walk” into Mexico has now widened to include the 2001-2008 administration of former president George W. Bush, a Republican, as well as the administration of current Democratic president Barack Obama. The latest revelations concern a program codenamed Operation Wide Receiver, in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) reportedly allowed some 350 or 400 guns to enter Mexico illegally during 2006 and 2007.
US media and legislators revealed in February that the ATF let some 2,000 firearms “walk” into Mexico during 2009 and 2010 in Operation Fast and Furious, a bungled effort to trace the activities of gun smugglers in the US Southwest. Led by Rep. Darrelll Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA), Republican politicians have used the scandal to attack the Obama administration; some have called for the resignation of Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., who as head of the Justice Department is ultimately responsible for activities of the ATF.
In early October Issa and Grassley released documents and emails which they apparently thought further implicated Democratic Justice Department officials in Fast and Furious. But it seems that some of the material referred to the earlier program, Operation Wide Receiver, which instead implicated Republican officials. Wide Receiver “has not received a lot of attention,” the Washington Post noted on Oct. 6. (WP, Oct. 6; New York Times, Oct. 31; La Jornada, Mexico, Nov. 2)
The partisan maneuvering over the two ATF operations has tended to obscure the larger issue of the impact of lax gun regulation in the US on Mexico’s “drug war,” which has led to the deaths of some 45,000 Mexicans since the beginning of 2007, 200 of them reportedly by weapons allowed to “walk” under Fast and Furious. In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Nov. 1, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who heads the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said that of 94,000 firearms seized by Mexican authorities over the past five years, 64,000—68%–had come from the US. (LJ, Nov. 2)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Nov. 6.
See our last post on Mexico.