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Mexico lawmakers livid over US 'Operation Fast and Furious'

Mexican lawmakers have condemned the US 'Operation Fast and Furious,' which purportedly allows gun smuggling in order to track weapons to Mexican drug lords.

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As a result, last week the ATF announced a review of its firearms trafficking strategies.

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The controversy comes just as US-Mexico relations appeared to be on the mend following last week’s visit by President Felipe Calderón to the White House. But this latest problem seems to show that not much of substance was resolved at the leaders meeting, some experts say.

Javier Oliva, a security expert at Mexico’s National Autonomous University, wonders whether Mexico even knew about the operation. “The fact that the Mexican government is requesting information demonstrates that there isn’t much collaboration with the United States,” he says.

Mexico will use the ATF controversy to keep pressuring the US on arms trafficking, says Vanda Felbab-Brown, a Mexico expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“Now [Mexico] can say that the US is equally lacking in intelligence, and are equally having problems with efficiency of [its] programs,” she says. “It allows the Mexican government to deflect the focus from problems in Mexican institutions.”

1,200 guns on the loose?

According to the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, a public-interest investigative organization that has done extensive reporting on the case, only 10 percent of the 2,000 guns that Fast and Furious allowed to gunrunners to purchase were eventually recovered in Mexico. Close to 30 percent – or 600 guns – were recovered in the US. The remaining 1,200 guns have not been recovered and possibly remain in the hands of drug gangs.

But law enforcement officials and some experts, including Ms. Felbab-Brown, argue that such sting operations lead to the capture of high level traffickers, and not mere straw purchasers who can be easily replaced.

The ATF's current investigation into the operation is essential, however, adds Felbab-Brown, to determine whether the tracked guns that wound up in shootouts were a result of corruption on either side of the border, or due to error.

IN PICTURES: Mexico's drug war

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