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Investigation: US retailers fuel Mexico's drug wars

US officials visit Texas in hopes of clamping down on the cross-border weapons pipeline.

The vast majority of these agents — some 170 — will be sent to Texas to join "Operation Gunrunner." The investigative program seeks to follow the trail of traced weapons from retailer to buyer to smuggler.

The Reynosa seizure alone will provide the agents with plenty of new leads. Of the 383 guns the ATF was able to trace, more than 300 came from Texas retailers, GlobalPost was told. The other weapons were traced to seven other states, including Illinois, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Michigan.

ATF officials declined to provide the names of specific retailers, on the grounds that public knowledge could compromise impending investigations.

Attacks averted?

The Reynosa weapons seizure is noteworthy for more than its size.

The seizure took place just in time to avert what some knowledgable officials said could have been the Gulf Cartel's first open attacks on U.S. officers and agents.

The weapons depot had been under the control of a notorious cartel lieutenant named Jaime “Hummer” Gonzalez Duran, who ran all aspects of the drug trafficking business — including enforcement to collect debts or eliminate rivals — between Reynosa, Mexico and McAllen, Texas, according to interviews with FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration officials.

For at least two years before the weapons seizure, the DEA's Houston office had been after Gonzalez and his cell, in an investigation known as “Dos Equis.”

Gonzalez and 11 associates were indicted on federal trafficking charges in September, but remained free as fugitives in Mexico. About the same time, the FBI issued an alarming intelligence alert to all law enforcement personnel in the McAllen area that Hummer was stockpiling weapons with which to attack American law enforcement officers.

“Each cell leader has been personally instructed by Hummer to engage law enforcement with a full tactical response should law enforcement attempt to intervene in their operations,” the memo said.

But those plans were thwarted.

Shortly after the FBI sent out its alert, DEA agents told their Mexican counterparts where they believed Gonzalez was hiding out, said Houston-based DEA Special Agent Violet Szeleczky. Within the same 24-hour period, from November 6 to 7, Mexican authorities captured Gonzalez and took over his massive weapons cache.

No violence against American law enforcement in Texas has been reported.

For more GlobalPost Dispatches on the border troubles:

Analysis: Mexico a failing state?

The cross-border bullet trade

To live or die in Mexico