Weapons seized from Drug Cartels by Mexico's Military & LE (updates)
The evidence of Mexico’s war on drug cartels
MEXICO CITY — Deep inside a heavily guarded military warehouse, the evidence of Mexico’s war on drug cartels is stacked two stories high: tens of thousands of seized weapons, from handguns and rifles to AK-47s, some with gun sights carved into the shape of a rooster or a horse’s head.
The vault nestled in a Mexican military base is the government’s largest stash of weapons — some 88,537 of them — seized from brutal drug gangs. The Associated Press was recently given rare and exclusive access to the secure facility.
The sheer size of the cache attests to the seemingly hopeless task of ever sorting and tracing the guns, possibly to trafficking rings that deliver weapons to Mexico. And security designed to keep the guns from getting back on the streets is so tight that even investigators have trouble getting the access they need.
The warehouse — on a main drag in northeastern Mexico City near the horse racing track — is surrounded by five rings of security. There are two military guards at the door and five more are in the lobby. Inside, another 10 soldiers sort, clean and catalog weapons. Some are dismantled and destroyed, a few assigned to the Mexican military.
The guns are stacked to the two-story ceiling in a warehouse the size of a small Wal-Mart. The rifles lie on 22 metal racks; the pistols hang from metal poles by their triggers.
The cavernous warehouse is impeccably clean, the only smell coming from the coffee the soldiers prepared for their rare visitors. The clash of metal and sounds of the soldiers at work echo off the walls.
The security, bolstered by closed-circuit cameras and motion detectors, makes the warehouse practically impenetrable, said Gen. Antonio Erasto Monsivais, who oversees the armory.
In all, the military has 305,424 confiscated weapons locked in vaults, just a fraction of those used by criminals in Mexico, where an offensive by drug cartels against the military has killed more than 10,750 people since December 2006. But each weapon is a clue to how the cartels are getting arms, and possibly to the traffickers that brought them here.