Calderon Blames Violence on End of U.S. Gun Ban
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said drug-related violence is being fueled by illegal imports of U.S. guns that have surged since a ban on assault weapons ended in 2004.
“The violence in Mexico started when the assault weapons ban expired,” Calderon, 48, said today in an interview on the “Charlie Rose” program airing on PBS and Bloomberg Television.
Authorities have seized more than 100,000 weapons in the past four years, 85 percent of which came from the U.S., Calderon said during an interview earlier at Bloomberg’s headquarters in New York. Sixty percent of the guns seized were assault weapons, including AR-15 and AK-47 rifles, he added.
“All those weapons are not going to the good hands of the good American citizens -- all those weapons are going to the hands of the criminals,” Calderon said. “They are killing people.”
Calderon is trying to reduce violence tied to organized crime and drug trafficking that has caused more than 34,000 deaths since he came to office in 2006. President George W. Bush and congressional Republicans allowed the assault-weapons ban to expire a decade after it was adopted in 1994, and subsequent efforts to impose stricter controls have failed because of bipartisan House opposition.
The U.S., as the world’s largest consumer of drugs and the source of most of the weapons used by Mexican gangs, shares responsibility for stamping out violence, Calderon said.
“What we need is that the government, the Congress and the American society realize this is not a Mexican problem, this is a common problem,” Calderon said.
‘Additional U.S. Effort’
“What we are expecting is an additional effort in order to stop the flows of weapons and laundered money into Mexico, in the same way in which we are making an extraordinary effort to stem the flow of drugs into the U.S.,” he added.
Deaths related to drug trafficking in Mexico reached 15,273 last year, a 59 percent increase from 2009, and in April there were 1,400 such killings, the highest monthly count since December 2006, according to Mexico City-based newspaper Milenio. The government estimates the violence shaves 1.2 percentage points off economic output annually.
The U.S. Justice Department estimates $17.2 billion of cocaine, marijuana and other drugs cross the border into the U.S. annually. The U.S. is aiding Mexico’s fight against drug gangs through the Merida Initiative, a three-year, $1.6 billion assistance package including helicopters and police training.
Mexico’s efforts to fight the drug gangs, improve its judicial system, bolster police forces, increase access to education and create more jobs for young people will pay off, Calderon said.
“I can see now some kind of stabilization, in terms of homicide,” Calderon said on “Charlie Rose.” “And I hope to see, in the short-term, even, that we can expect some kind of decline.”
Even as Mexico clamps down on drug-related violence, the nation is failing to change public perceptions about the deterioration in security, he said. Mexico’s 16 homicides per 100,000 people is lower than the murder rate of Washington and less than the 80 per 100,000 people killed annually in Rio de Janeiro, which is hosting the 2016 Olympics, he said.
“The difference is that the perceptions about Brazil is that Brazil implies only party, carnival,” Calderon said on “Charlie Rose.” “If you see a lot of Mexican people, we are really experts talking bad about Mexico.
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