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Los Zetas, Mexico's number 2 drug cartel, paid hundreds of dollars to ordinary people to buy 203 assault rifles, handguns and a sniper rifle.
US officials in Texas today announced prison terms of up to six years for nine local men and women convicted of buying guns for the feared Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas while a dozen more face charges arising out of a government probe into gun running, according to Reuters.
Robert Pitman, US Attorney for the Texas Western District, was quoted as saying that the purchasers, many with clean criminal records, were paid to buy guns and give them to smugglers.
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"Firearms smugglers employ individuals in the United States with no criminal histories to purchase firearms, often assault-style weapons, and those weapons are then smuggled into Mexico," Pitman was quoted as telling reporters in San Antonio. "The consequences of that smuggling can be seen every day in the murders which take place south of the border."
Mexico’s Attorney General last month released statistics showing that nearly 50,000 people had died in drug-related violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderón called out the Army to combat the drug cartels five years ago.
The Zetas, Mexico’s second most-powerful narcotics organization, are among the most violent participants in the drug war. According to Reuters, the group comprise Army deserters who once were muscle for the Gulf Cartel.
The prosecution of 12 others is ongoing.
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In a related development, The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that Mexican authorities had arrested Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, who is accused as an enforcer for the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful, and who allegedly amassed weapons under the US government’s failed counter-smuggling gun operation called Fast and Furious.