Anybody can find copious amount of stories about smuggling drugs and items into the United States from Mexico, but what smuggling the other way around? It is a little known fact that smuggling items INTO Mexico is just as common and profitable as smuggling vice versa, the only difference is WHAT is being smuggled. While drugs are the major import into the United States, conversely, guns are the import of choice into Mexico. In fact over 90% of guns seized from Mexican Cartels have been found to be from the United States. The traffic is reflected in the disproportionately high number of federally licensed firearms dealers along the U.S. side of the border. Of the 51,300 retail gun shops in the United States that hold federal licenses, some 6,700 of them are concentrated in the four U.S. states that border Mexico. On average, there are more than three gun dealers for every mile of the 1,970-mile border between the countries.
US influence over gun availability in Mexico can even be reflected by the type of guns that are currently being used in Mexico. Increasingly more and more killings in Mexico are carried out with handguns, not the high-powered assault weapons that garner much of the attention related to the countries violence. In fact the vast majority of deaths arising from Violence in Mexico can be attributed to .38 caliber handguns, it just so happens that the United States is the largest market for .38 Caliber handguns.
Our story picks up at the San Ysidro Border Entry near San Diego, CA. Our author is an ex Mexican Cartel member who is retired and now lives on a remote ranch on the very far east of San Diego. Due to the highly controversial content of this article and at his request, we will refer to him as “Mr Red” to maintain his anonymity. When we received contact from Mr. Red and started to hear his story, we just naturally assumed he was Mexican. Upon meeting Mr. Red we were astonished to find out that he was a white American man with a heavy Mexican accent, who spoke fluent Spanish, and was born into a middle class family in sunny La Jolla, CA.
“When I was 18 I moved down to Mexico, mostly to surf, that year was the first time I interacted with the Cartel. They wanted me to smuggle drugs into the United States, which I knew was dangerous and had no interest in”. Red went on to live in Rosarito Mexico for another 2 years, gained many friends, learned fluent Spanish, and even picked up a Mexican accent. One of the friends he made was a prominent lieutenant in the Mexican Cartel in Rosarito, we will call this friend ‘Andy’. Red and Andy became very close over the next few years and eventually began discussing cartel activities. “I grew up in a really nice suburban neighborhood to good parents, I never really imagined myself dealing with the cartel. Being friends with Andy, everything just started to become so interesting to me, they were so organized”.
Red began to gain details about inner workings of the cartel and was constantly invited to social functions and parties. “I really felt like I was part of a family, so I wanted to help the family in ways that I could potentially be good at”. Red said he was given a stipend to rent an apartment in both Rosarito (mexico) as well as San Diego (California) and started initiating relationships with local gun stores claiming that he was a gun vendor who would buy in bulk and resell for profit at gun conventions. “It was really easy for me, I would literally just pick up 50k from a cartel member in San Diego and then I would buy guns in bulk from a local store, generally ammo, pistols and rifles that were hard to get in Mexico”. Red would then take all the stock, pack it up in his old 98 ford explorer, and simply drive it right into Mexico untethered.
“I probably did about 20-25 smaller loads of guns before we decided to step things up, that’s when I decided to really commit myself to making a lot of money” said Red. Red’s profitable relationship with Andy didn’t go unnoticed, Red started to become heavily respected by higher levels of the Cartel.
Fast forward a year and Red was in talks with 25 Southern California gun stores in regards to purchasing about 7.5 million dollars’ worth of Guns and Ammo. “We packed up 2 old RV’s full of guns and ammo with the thought that if only one made it across the border we would still be highly profitable. Both both RV’s made it across without a hitch at all”. The guns and ammo that Red orchestrated to be smuggled across was worth well over 15 million, 3 million of which was given to Red. “I took 3 million in cash and I never looked back, I never had anything close to that amount of money, once I had it I knew I just needed to take it and move on”.
Red took all his earnings and moved back to California, keeping in contact with his ‘family’ until his best friend Andy was killed in a cartel shootout in Mexico. “I already knew that I couldn’t smuggle forever, but when [Andy] died I went into a deep depression and promised myself I would never smuggle or break the law again.”
Red is now retired and ironically spends his time working for a non-profit organization that aids ex-gang members in gaining education and finding jobs. Meeting with Red definitely changed our perspective on our stereotypical view of a ‘Gun Runner’, we thank Red for his honesty and his positive lifestyle change.