Published April 15, 2009
Mexican President Felipe Calderon on Wednesday made an assertion -- cited in the past by Mexico's U.S. ambassador and even by U.S. leaders, but debunked as a myth -- that 90 percent of the weapons intercepted in Mexico come from the U.S.
"I know that this is a very sensitive issue," Calderon said in an interview with NBC News. He also said that he will tell President Obama during his visit Thursday to Mexico City that the U.S. needs to clean up its drug problem if Mexico is going to be successful in its battle against the cartels.
"The source of the problem was the huge demand for drugs in the United States the largest market in the world for drugs," he said. "The United States, you have a lot of traffic of drugs. You have a lot of distribution of drugs. You have a lot of corruption as well."
Calderon's comments came days after Auturo Sarukhan, the Mexican ambassador to the United States, appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" and made the same claim that 90 percent of the weapons intercepted in Mexico come from the U.S.
FOX News debunked that claim in a report earlier this month that found only 17 percent of guns found at Mexican crime scenes have been traced to the U.S., though even that figure is an imprecise estimate.
Calderon and Sarukhan aren't the only one to cite this myth. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, California Sen. Diane Feinstein and Willliam Hoover, assistant director for field operations at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, have all said that 90 percent of weapons used to commit crimes in Mexico come from the U.S.
An ATF spokeswoman told FOXNews.com earlier this month in a clarification of the statistic used by her own agency's assistant director "that over 90 percent of the traced firearms originate from the U.S." But a large percentage of the guns recovered in Mexico do not get sent back to the U.S. for tracing because it is obvious from their markings that they do not come from the U.S.
"Not every weapon seized in Mexico has a serial number on it that would make it traceable, and the U.S. effort to trace weapons really only extends to weapons that have been in the U.S. market," Matt Allen, special agent of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), told FOX News earlier this month.
Sarukhan has claimed that Mexico seizes 2,000 guns a day from the United States, or 730,000 a year. But the official statistic from the Mexico attorney general's office says Mexico seized 29,000 weapons in all of 2007 and 2008.
On "Face the Nation," host Bob Schieffer asked Sarukhan for evidence to support his claim that most of the weapons seized are coming from the United States.
"The data we have is the one that we've been sharing with our counterparts in the U.S. government, ATF and the Justice Department, and other agencies that have been working with us to determine where those guns are coming from," Sarukhan replied.
For example, Sarukhan cited the Mexican border town of Reynosa where he said more than 250 assault weapons and half a million rounds of ammo were seized in November.
"These had just crossed over the border from the United States in Mexico," he said. "By tracing these weapons, by looking at the types of weapons, we're determining that most of these weapons are coming from the United States."