07/24/2012 – Last week, Governor Mario López Valdez of Sinaloa presented the head of the Secretary of National Defense (Secretaría de Defensa Nacional, Sedena), Guillermo Galván Galván, with a surprising proposal on behalf of the state’s police forces: the return of heavy arms confiscated from drug cartels to the state for use by the police in their law enforcement duties. Currently, weapons confiscated by the armed forces are housed in a bunker at military installations and eventually destroyed. Given the uphill battle his state’s police forces often face when fighting cartels–who are able to draw on international arms traffickers and deep profits to purchase high quality weapons, which gives them a disproportionate advantage over public security officials–Governor López is hoping to more evenly match the firepower of cartels. He argued, “The arms they (criminals) carry and their armored cars makes it so they always win, and if we have indeed found the drive to confront the criminals today, then the possibility of equipping our forces and putting them on an even level should be valued.”
According to El Universal, Governor López’s request to Sedena for weapons, including AK-47s and Barrett anti-aircraft guns, was specifically prompted by a cartel attack on a police convoy in early July in which seven policemen were killed. It also came on the heels of his previous request and approval of a high number of weapons for state police forces, some of which were delivered on July 11. This was the second delivery of weapons for Sinaloa forces purchased by the Subsidy for Public Security in the Municipalities fund (Subsidio para la Seguridad Pública de los Municipios, Subsemun) that, between the two shipments, cost six million pesos (almost $440,000 USD) and included 677 rifles, 426 Glock pistols, 1,837 magazines, and over a million different caliber cartridges. The governor is additionally pushing for the acquisition of a helicopter for Sinaloa’s police, citing the significant advantage that would be gained from air support. He emphasized that his police officers would be required to comply with and fulfill all trainings required to use high powered weapons and machines, if the measure is approved. Sedena has not yet answered the governor’s request.
This is not the first time Governor López has made headlines for his efforts to assert the rule of law in Sinaloa and develop his public security strategy. Earlier in his term, he restructured police forces into small, elite ‘special forces’ units to better strike against mobile cartels, which El Universal reports have been highly effective. In just over a six month span in 2011, aggravated murders numbered 1,256; yet during the same time frame in 2012, the incident rate fell to 802.