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MURDOCK: Mexican victims of Fast and Furious

Remember the lives needlessly lost south of the border

- - Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The American people finally have heard of Brian Terry. He is the best-known victim of Operation Fast and Furious, an Obama administration 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 were two AK-47s found near Rio Rico, Ariz., where suspected smugglers fatally shot Agent Terry, a 40-year-old former Marine, on Dec. 15, 2010.

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

U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jaime Zapata, 32, was shot mortally in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Members of Los Zetas drug gang also ambushed ICE Agent Victor Avila, although not fatally. The assault on Feb. 15, 2011, involved a rifle purchased in Dallas in another Obama administration "gunwalking" escapade.

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, Utah Republican, told NBC News. 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. Here is what happened, according to a July 26, 2011, report by Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, and Sen. Chuck Grassley, Iowa Republican.

On Oct. 21, 2010, Sinaloa drug cartel members kidnapped Mario Gonzalez, brother of Chihuahua state's then-Attorney General Patricia Gonzalez. A video promptly emerged showing Mario in handcuffs, surrounded by five armed, masked captors. On Nov. 5, his tortured body was discovered in a shallow grave. Mexican police soon nabbed his suspected kidnappers in a shootout. Among 16 weapons seized along with eight of these hoodlums, serial numbers confirm that two were Fast and Furious guns. These also were tied to the kidnappings of two people.

Fast and Furious guns have befouled at least 200 crime scenes. Among them:

Members of the 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. They returned fire, striking all four choppers and injuring another two government agents. The 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 on July 1, 2010, and tied to a "Homicide/Willful Kill - Gun," the U.S. Justice Department declared on Sept. 9.

Two Fast and Furious guns were linked to a February 2010 assassination conspiracy against Baja California's then-Police Chief Julian Leyzaola.

Four Fast and Furious guns were found on Jan. 8, 2010, and connected to a "kidnap/ransom."

Eleven Fast and Furious firearms were discovered in Atoyac de Alvarez after Mexican soldiers saved a kidnap victim on Nov. 14, 2009.

Team Obama's defenders correctly argue that Bush administration investigators distributed some 450 guns in Mexico. But there are several key differences: No known deaths pertain to Operation Wide Receiver.Many of its weapons (unlike most Fast and Furious guns) featured radio-tracking devices. Also, Mexico's government knew about and supported Wide Receiver.

In contrast, Mr. Issa and Mr. Grassley 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 envoy to America, Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan, declared on May 31.

Mr. Issa and Mr. Grassley 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 the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with Stanford University's Hoover Institution.