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The U.S. and Mexico are using an Internet-based system to help Mexican authorities continue their battle against violence and gun-trafficking by drug cartels.

The system, an electronic tracing system called Spanish e-Trace, allows law enforcement agencies to submit firearm trace requests to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ National Tracing Center, where agents can analyze trends in the movement of weapons to Mexico and other countries.

It was designed to assist Mexican investigators who are tracing firearms known to originate in the U.S., according to a May 2010 State Department report.

The original e-Trace was made in English but the Spanish version was made available to some Mexican law enforcement agencies in March, according to an August 2010 Congressional Research Service report. The bureau has traced more than 35,000 guns that were seized in Mexico as of April 2010, according to the State Department report.

Tom Crowley, an ATF spokesman in Dallas, said the Spanish e-Trace system eliminates the communication problems U.S. and Mexican agencies have experienced while trying to trace weapons.
“It’s a lot quicker and a lot more accurate because, it being in Spanish, eliminates the problem we have with interpretations,” he said.

About 70 percent of firearms seized and traced in Mexico between 2004 and 2008 were from Texas, California and Arizona, according to a June 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office report.

It is not known how many of those guns were seized in Juárez.

More than 6,700 people have been killed in Juárez since the cartel war began in 2008. On Thursday, gunmen opened fire on three buses carrying maquiladora workers killing three women, a man and wounding 15 others.

But the Mexican federal police who patrol the streets of Juárez do not have access to the Internet system, said federal police spokesman José Ramón Salinas. They collect the guns and pass them on, he said.

“We, federal police, give the weapons to either the Mexican Attorney General or the Mexican army, who then consult with American officials and trace the guns using that system,” Salinas said.

Source: Maggie Ybarra for El Paso Times.

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