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Viewing cable 10MEXICO77, MEXICO: TAPACHULA ARMS CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON SOUTHERN BORDER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10MEXICO77 2010-01-25 17:05 2010-12-11 21:09 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Mexico
VZCZCXRO7275
RR RUEHCD RUEHHO RUEHNG RUEHNL RUEHRD RUEHRS
DE RUEHME #0077/01 0251722
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 251706Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY MEXICO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0177
INFO ALL US CONSULATES IN MEXICO COLLECTIVE
RHEFHLC/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RHMFISS/CDR USNORTHCOM PETERSON AFB CO
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
RHMFISS/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEABND/DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHME/AMEMBASSY MEXICO
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MEXICO 000077

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 2020/01/25
TAGS: SNAR PREL PGOV PHUM KCRM MX
SUBJECT: MEXICO: TAPACHULA ARMS CONFERENCE FOCUSES ON SOUTHERN BORDER
PROBLEMS

REF: 09 MEXICO 2952

CLASSIFIED BY: Gustavo Delgado, Political Minister Counselor; REASON:
1.4(B), (D)

1. (SBU) Summary: Two recent arms trafficking conferences -- one
in September focused on the northern border (reftel) and a
subsequent one in Tapachula, looking at the southern border --
highlighted lax border controls and suggested ways to improve law
enforcement efforts to stem the tide of illegal guns. This cable
reports on the Tapachula discussion, and off-site trips to three
different border locations, which offered dramatic evidence of the
porous southern border and serious resource shortfalls, and helped
focus attention on ways to help Mexico, Guatemala and Belize
address shared border security challenges. End Summary.



Follow Up on the Southern Border

--------------------------------------------- --



2. (SBU) Many of the GOM and USG law enforcement officials who
participated in the Tapachula conference in October had also
attended the earlier Northern Border Conference in Phoenix. This
time, however, Belize's National Police and representatives from
Guatemala's Attorney General's office also participated, adding a
new wrinkle to the discussion by presenting an overview of arms
trafficking laws in their countries and suggesting ways in which
they could improve coordination with Mexico and the U.S. with
regards to illegal arms trafficking.



The Ground Truth: Laws Not Enough

--------------------------------------------- -----



3. (SBU) Each country highlighted internal controls that regulate
the sale, distribution, and transport of weapons and ammunition,
drawing attention to sanctions against the unlawful transport of
weapons across any national boundary. Unfortunately, our visit to
three border crossings between Guatemala and Mexico in Chiapas
revealed neither country presently works seriously to enforce these
laws.



4. (SBU) At the first border crossing in Talisman, Chiapas, the
conference participants witnessed almost as many individuals
crossing the border illegally as legally. Immigration officials
conjectured that individuals crossing illegally under the bridge
were either visiting family members on the other side of border or
engaging in informal commerce. Although the delegation did not
have an opportunity to talk with any of the individuals crossing
under the bridge at the border, it appeared the majority were
carrying what appeared to be personal belongings rather than items
of commerce.



5. (SBU) The border officials made every attempt to illustrate a
secure border crossing, but their explanations highlighted serious
procedural inconsistencies that undermine effective controls. While
border officials inspect 100 percent of the individuals and cars
crossing the bridge legally, the data collected is stored in a
local database that is not connected to federal or international
criminal databases. Border officials are also hampered by their
lack of access to national registries that would allow them to
determine if the individuals crossing are on any criminal or
terrorist watchlists. Mexican law allows individuals to cross the
border with an "original" identification document but does not
prescribe what constitutes an "original" document. As long as the
individual agrees to confine one's visit to the state of Chiapas

MEXICO 00000077 002 OF 003


and return to Guatemala after an undefined period of time, one is
granted admission to the country. Limited resources also undermine
the effort: while there are 30,000 U.S. CBP officers on the 1,926
mile Mexican/U.S. border, only 125 Mexican immigration officials
monitor the 577 mile border with Guatemala. Mexican immigration
officials repeatedly confirmed that they do not have the manpower
or resources to direct efforts effectively along the southern
border.



6. (SBU) The tour continued to the Ciudad Hidalgo station on the
Pan American highway, the border crossing with highest number of
legal crossings in Chiapas. Border officials estimated that on a
daily basis 95% of all exports, 350-400 shipments; and 26% of all
imports, flow through these border crossings to and from Central
America. Additionally, 80-100 carloads of visitors pass through
the border on a daily basis. While officials displayed an
impressive array of non-intrusive inspection equipment, e.g.,
hand-held spectrometers for the identification of drugs and
explosives and gamma-ray inspection equipment for large containers,
these devices are not incorporated effectively into border control
protocols. Border officials were inconsistent in using their
inspection equipment to check the cabs of trucks and there is no
revealed coordinated approach between Mexico and Guatemala to share
information that would reduce crossing times and avoid duplicative
inspections, as, for example, is being done at certain places in
the Mexican-U.S. border.



7. (SBU) The final border crossing only served to re-inforce the
concerns that emerged from the first two sites the group visited.
One of the most memorable images of the day was the steady flow of
rafts transporting people and goods across the river illegally
within sight of the legal border crossing.





Family Feuds Prevent Internal Coordination

--------------------------------------------- ---------------



8. (C) The last part of the conference consisted of open and frank
panel discussions. The most interesting discussion focused on
information and intelligence sharing among Mexican agencies,
including the Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA), the Marine
Secretariat (SEMAR), the Office of the Attorney General (PGR), and
the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN). The
discussion started with many self-congratulatory comments from
panel members on how well their respective organizations collect
and share information. The lack of coordination between federal
and state officials became apparent when a representative from the
Chiapas State Attorney General's Office complained that his state
does not receive any information from the federal authorities and
has no input or visibility in the federal process. While the state
representative acknowledged a common perception of corruption at
the state level, he argued it was counterproductive and illogical
to exclude them from the process. Other participants recognized an
acceptable process for intelligence collection, but complained
about inadequate dissemination of actionable information and
insufficient formal mechanisms for sharing collected information.



Conclusions and Follow Up Actions

--------------------------------------------- -----



9. (SBU) The conference generated a list of eight conclusions,
including few measurable actions. Several of the conclusions

MEXICO 00000077 003 OF 003


focused on the need to explore mechanisms for better
information-sharing with international partners or internally.
There was consensus on the need to regionalize arms-trafficking
efforts, specifically by including Guatemala in future GC Armas
meetings in Mexico. Guatemalan representation pledged to review
current procedures and incorporate practices that will improve
interagency coordination and information. Mexico and Guatemala
agreed to work on practical measures to facilitate the flow of
information between the two countries on the issue of arms
trafficking. Belize also suggested a formal dialogue with Mexico
on increasing the number of formal border crossings between the two
countries, as a way to improve border controls.



Comment

--------------



10. (C) This conference highlighted weak controls on Mexico's
southern border that are contributing to problems with illegal
migration and guns/drugs smuggling. Much more needs to be done to
improve secure information sharing among federal agencies and
between Federal and State officials in Mexico. Better cooperation
among Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize could also help coordinate
current efforts by each state and ensure that existing laws are
enforced. The conference represented a small first step in that
direction, a follow-up meeting in February 2010 will provide
another opportunity to strengthen joint efforts.
FEELEY