Here are excerpts from a BorderlandBeat.com blog post and analysis from Small Wars Journal:
"Chaos and panic erupted last night in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, the Mexican city that shares the border with Eagle Pass Texas. Around 8PM twitterers and libre network users began reporting that shootouts were occurring in various sectors of the city in what media sources are calling a 'narco rebellion.' In the aftermath Sergio Sisbeles, a spokesman for security affairs of Coahuila, stated there were 10 known casualties of the attacks with no apparent losses by the narco group, but possibly there may be civilian casualties... Terror gripped the city causing widespread turmoil. The first confrontation broke out on Highway 57 at around 5 PM and the Micare plant and offices. The violence triggered American federal authorities to close the two international bridges in Eagle Pass, Texas... Buses were stopped by the gunmen, passengers robbed and the buses set afire. The armed gunmen are believed to be the Los Zetas cartel known to have control of Piedras Negras and are most likely responsible for the attacks." Link to Full Post
Analysis: While this particular confrontation is notable due to the proximity to Eagle Pass, as well as the disregard for the loss of innocent lives, there's something else I want to discuss. Take a look at the LONG list of items seized after all was said and done:
1. AK-47, 7.62 X 39mm, fixed stock.
2. Grenade launcher, 40mm, rifle mount (mount configuration unknown).
3. Assorted Ammunition, Rifle, .30 caliber or greater, type unknown.
4. Grenade launcher, 40mm, M-79, standard format.
5. Grenade launcher, 40mm, Multiple, 6-round capacity, mfg. unknown.
6. Grenade launcher, 40mm, HK 69A1 “Granatpistole,” retractable butt-stock (Heckler & Koch).
7. 40mm Spin-stabilized Grenades, HE // HEDP: (2) types present:
(4) Bearing strong resemblance to the U.S. M433 HEDP (Fragmentation / Shaped-charge).
(3) Bearing strong resemblance to the S. Korean K200 HE (Fragmentation / High Explosive).
8. Ammunition, Rifle, .30 caliber or greater, type unknown.
9. AK-47, 7.62 x 39mm, unknown origin, folding stock.
10. AK-47, 7.62 x 39mm, military issue, fixed stock.
11. Model 1919A4.30 cal. Browning Machine Gun, belt-fed, (U.S. produced or exact foreign copy).
12. PG-7 Booster charge – for RPG-7 munitions.
13. RPG round – PG-7VM (Romanian) HEAT with a modified fuze or an improvised fuze safety cover; heavily carried.
14. RPG round – PG-7V Anti-tank; consistent with RFAS or Bulgarian mfg.
15. RPG round – PG-7V Anti-tank; consistent with RFAS or Bulgarian mfg.
16. RPG round – PG-7VM (Romanian) HEAT.
17. RPG-7 Launcher, 40mm Russian (RFAS) or Eastern Bloc, heavily carried and recently fired.
18. RPG-7 Launcher, 40mm Russian (RFAS) or Eastern Bloc, heavily carried.
19. M-60 machine gun, 7.62 x 51mm, U.S. issue, produced sometime between 1996 and 1999.
20. Ammunition, Military Ball, linked, 7.62 x 51mm (for the M-60).
21. AK-47, Weapon origin uncertain, however, the folding stock that it is equipped indicates that it is Romanian, Polish, or post 1985 East German.
22. Weapon not identifiable from view angle, but may be a semi-auto shotgun, box magazine fed.
23. AK-47, 7.62 x 39mm, fixed stock.
24. This firearm appears to be a pump-action rifle, .30 cal. or above, model / origin unknown.
25. Limited item view prevents positive identification.
26. Magazines, 7.62 x 39mm, 30-round capacity, loaded. Magazine count: 108 // Total rounds: 3,240 rnds.
27. (2) Hand-held Transceivers (appear to be VHF).
28. Magazine, Drum, 7.62 x 39mm, AKM, 75-round capacity.
29. Hand Grenades, delay fragmentation, M-26A1 design, country of origin not identifiable; possibly: South African, South Korean, or U.S.
30. Hand Grenade, appears to be an RFAS RDG-5 with UZRGM Fuze.
31. Unknown container, possibly Deta-sheet (flexible explosive) rolled, or similar foreign compound.
32. Packing container containing at least one PG-7 booster charge – for the PG-7 rounds.
33. Canister, PG-7 booster charge.
34. Canister, PG-7 booster charge.
35. Tactical Vest, hand grenade configuration.
36. Body armor, military.
37. Tactical gear pouches.
38. Tactical duty belt.
39. Tactical Rifle sling, padded.
40. Body Armor, tactical, threat level (Bullet resistance) unknown.
41. This appears to be a ceramic plate/s for body armor shown (Item No. 40).
The good folks at Small Wars Journal made some very important observations about the weapons found in this cache, but we'll get to that in a second. One of the biggest controversies regarding the drug war is southbound weapons trafficking, or just the overall subject of how weapons get into the hands of TCOs. It's a very polarized argument because one side believes almost all weapons come from US sources, and the other side believes almost all weapons come from Central American, internal Mexican, or other sources. I believe the truth lies somewhere in between, but I also don't think anyone can possibly know the proportion of each because of the very nature of the underground, black market business that is weapons trafficking.
This seizure is very interesting because of the mix of firearms. The grenade launcher (#6) obviously didn't come from a US gun shop. Small Wars Journal notes, "[It's] a very high quality 40mm launcher that is produced in Germany and is in service with a number of military and police forces, all of which are overseas. There is a high likelihood that this weapon was hijacked or interdicted during a shipment of legitimate arms, possibly destined for delivery to the Mexican government." This sounds very plausible, and the folks at SWJ know their stuff. However, it raises the question, Where are these hijackings and interdictions taking place? The Mexican navy and US Coast Guard have a great working relationship, and are surely up to the task of trying to detect this kind of activity. But I haven't seen any reports of authorities breaking up an interdiction of arms shipments by TCOs or their proxies. If some other organization(s) is doing this for them, that would be a great piece of information to have.
The next SWJ note is about the RPGs, which TCOs have been using sparingly, but with a but more frequency lately. Again, we know these are not coming from US gun shops. SWJ says, "The presence of two RPG-7s (Item Nos. 17 & 18) in this cache may have significance based upon their origin. Components of the Mexican army appear to have fielded small numbers of RPG-7s within the past several years from sources currently unknown. The RPG-7 has seen very limited use on the southern continent, with the exception of the El Salvador conflict that occurred in Central America in the mid 1980s. While the dates of manufacture of these weapons are not readily apparent, they appear far too new to be from the El Salvador conflict. They do however, appear, to be of European (RFAS or former Eastern Bloc) or Middle Eastern origin." Again, it raises the question of how these high-powered weapons got from point A to point B.
This may be an "AHA!!!" moment for the pro-gun lobby, but it's still a source of frustration for people trying to figure out the exact methods by which TCOs acquire their firearms. US agencies have been trying for years to determine who calls the shots, and the exact route by which rifles and pistols wind their way from Arizona and Texas gun stores into Mexican TCO stash houses and assassin hands. Likewise, Mexican and US military agencies have been trying to ascertain relationships between TCOs and international arms dealers, and how military-grade weapons are being shipped from foreign sources.
The whole thing makes me scratch my head because we read stories every now and then about houses and cars being busted in the US containing Mexico-bound weapons, as well as large seizures being made in Mexico like the one above. But where are the stories of the interdicted shipping containers housing hundreds of grenades and rocket launchers headed for TCO hands? Or reports about international arms rings being investigated or busted for arming TCOs? We know that not all weapons in Mexico are coming from the US, but what are Mexican authorities doing to stop the heavy-duty stuff from coming in? Of course, many of these items come from corrupt internal sources like the Mexican military and police, but many others don't. The Mexican government can point the finger all it wants at the US and blame our lax gun laws for arming Mexican TCOs, but it has no such recourse for many of the weapons pictured above.
Bottom line, it should be little source of relief or joy for US gun advocates, or any agency trying to fight the TCOs, to take note of the types of weapons entering Mexico from non-US sources. I agree with BorderlandBeat that the most likely purveyor of these weapons was Los Zetas, and we know they are more willing to confront US law enforcement than probably any other TCO. The fact that they're getting their hands on this stuff worries me big time, because there's no telling if and when they'll use it against our agents, possibly on US soil. This potential threat should far overshadow any argument over where the weapons ultimately come from.