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'Fast and Furious' guns will keep doing damage

By Deroy Murdock

Scripps Howard News Service

Published: Sunday, July 8 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

The American people finally have heard of Brian Terry. He is the best-known victim of "Fast and Furious," the Obama administration's de facto conventional-weapons proliferation program. Between November 2009 and January 2011, Team Obama arranged for licensed firearms dealers to sell guns to straw buyers, who transferred them to known violent criminals in Mexico. Among these firearms, two AK-47s were found near Rio Rico, Ariz., where suspected smugglers fatally shot Terry, a 40-year-old former Marine, on Dec. 15, 2010.

While Terry epitomizes those whom Fast and Furious has harmed, he is not its sole casualty.

In another Obama administration "gun-walking" escapade, in February 2011 in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, members of Los Zetas drug gang ambushed two U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. Jaime Zapata, 32, was fatally shot and Victor Avila was wounded.

Largely overlooked is this plan's calamitous impact on Mexico, its people and U.S.-Mexican relations.

"Our federal government knowingly, willfully, purposefully gave the drug cartels nearly 2,000 weapons — mainly AK-47s — and allowed them to walk," Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, told NBC News last week. These arms were supposed to lead federal agents in Phoenix to the Mexican thugs who acquired them. Instead, Fast and Furious guns melted into Mexico.

Approximately 300 Mexicans have been killed or wounded by Fast and Furious guns, estimates former Mexican attorney general Victor Humberto Benitez Trevino. Relevant details are scarce. However, at least one case generated enormous headlines — in Mexico.

On Oct. 21, 2010, Sinaloa drug cartel members kidnapped Mario Gonzalez, brother of Chihuahua state's attorney general at the time, Patricia Gonzalez. That Nov. 5, his tortured body was discovered in a shallow grave. Mexican police soon nabbed eight of his suspected kidnappers in a shootout. They seized 16 weapons, including two Fast and Furious guns, serial numbers confirm. These guns were tied to two kidnappings.

That case is detailed in a congressional report prepared for two top Republicans — Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Rep. Darrell Issa of California — and released last July 26.

Fast and Furious guns have befouled at least 200 crime scenes, including murders and abductions. Among them:

Members of La Familia drug gang fired at a Mexican federal police helicopter on May 24, 2011, wounding three officers and forcing an emergency landing in Michoacan, western Mexico. Five days later, four more helicopters attacked La Familia. Gang members returned fire, striking all four choppers and injuring two more government agents. Police prevailed, killing 11 cartel members and arresting 36 — including those suspected of targeting the first chopper. Mexican authorities say La Familia possessed heavy-duty body armor and 70 rifles, including several Fast and Furious weapons.

Two weapons purchased by Fast and Furious targets were recovered in Sonora July 2010, and to what the Justice Department classifies as a "homicide/willful kill — gun."

Two Fast and Furious guns were linked to a February 2010 assassination conspiracy against Julian Leyzaola, then police chief in Baja California.

Four Fast and Furious guns found in January 2010 were connected to a "kidnap/ransom."

Eleven Fast and Furious firearms were discovered in Atoyac de Alvarez, a city on Mexico's Pacific Coast, after Mexican soldiers saved a kidnap victim in November 2009.

Team Obama's defenders correctly argue that George W. Bush administration investigators distributed some 450 guns in Mexico through Operation Wide Receiver, the precursor to Fast and Furious.

But there are several key differences between the two initiatives: No known deaths pertain to Operation Wide Receiver. Many of its weapons featured radio-tracking devices, unlike most Fast and Furious guns. Also, Mexico's government knew about and supported Wide Receiver.

In contrast, Issa and Grassley's report observed, "ATF and DOJ leadership kept their own personnel in Mexico and Mexican government officials totally in the dark about all aspects of Fast and Furious."

"Fast and Furious has poisoned the wellspring of public opinion in Mexico as it relates to the cooperation and engagement with the United States," Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, said in a May 31 speech.

The Grassley-Issa report concluded that 1,048 of these weapons "remain unaccounted for." Unlike carrier pigeons, these Fast and Furious guns will not fly safely home. Instead, for years to come, they will keep drawing blood in Mexico and points north.

Deroy Murdock is a columnist with Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. Email deroy.Murdock@gmail.com.

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