News
A government study published last year said that some 2.5 million illicit weapons have crossed the border into Mexico over the past decade. A government study published last year said that some 2.5 million illicit weapons have crossed the border into Mexico over the past decade.

Lawyer predicts arms makers will fight ‘dirty war’ in defense against Mexico’s suit

Gun makers' legal defense could focus on Mexican corruption and lack of 'moral character'

Mexico is ready for any scenario – including a “dirty war” – in its legal battle against U.S. gun manufacturers, according to the in-house legal counsel for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE).

The federal government filed a lawsuit against 11 United States-based arms makers last month, accusing them of negligent business practices that have led to illegal arms trafficking and deaths in Mexico, where U.S.-sourced firearms are used in a majority of high-impact crimes.

The manufacturers, among which are Smith & Wesson, Barrett Firearms and Colt’s Manufacturing Company, will fight the suit as a single block when they respond to Mexico’s allegations in a federal court in Boston in November.

The federal government will be represented by lawyers from the firm Hilliard Shadowen, which has agreed not to charge more than US $1 million annually for its services. The government secured a deal to pay the firm just half its usual hourly rates, which go as high as US $1,000.

Alejandro Celorio, legal counsel for the SRE, said in an interview that lawyers for the gun makers could accuse Mexico of corruption and an absence of “moral character” as part of a “dirty war” in defense of their client’s business practices.

On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that cross-border arms trafficking will be the central issue in the Mexico City talks with the US, scheduled for October 8.
On Wednesday, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that cross-border arms trafficking will be the central issue in the Mexico City talks with the US, scheduled for October 8.

Celorio said that lawyers for the 11 companies could also question Mexico’s legal right to sue gun manufacturers in the United States.

With regard to the possible “dirty war” scenario, the SRE lawyer said attorneys for the gun manufacturers “could say to us, ‘You are corrupt.’”

“… Our response is, you can say we have skeletons in our closet but we’re suing you because of issues with your distribution chain, with your business practices. You can say what you like but what’s in dispute here are your business practices so don’t get distracted,” Celorio said.

A spokesman for NSSF, a United States trade association for the firearms industry, last month accused the Mexican government of looking for a scapegoat and described its allegations as “baseless.”

Lawrence Keane also accused the federal government of being responsible for the “rampant crime and corruption” within Mexico’s borders.

“Mexico’s criminal activity is a direct result of the illicit drug trade, human trafficking and organized crime cartels that plague Mexico’s citizens. It is these cartels that criminally misuse firearms illegally imported into Mexico or stolen from the Mexican military and law enforcement. Rather than seeking to scapegoat law-abiding American businesses, Mexican authorities must focus their efforts on bringing the cartels to justice,” he said.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Wednesday that illegal cross-border arms trafficking will be the main issue discussed at high level talks between Mexico and the United States scheduled for October 8 in Mexico City.

He said last week that reducing violence in Mexico will be very difficult if the United States doesn’t do more to stop the illegal flow of weapons into the country.

With reports from Milenio and Forbes México 

Reader forum

The forum is available to logged-in subscribers only.