Mexican cartels trading ‘cop killer’ gun that can penetrate bullet-proof vests

Mexican drug cartels appear to be shipping high-powered weapons to Colombia to purchase shipments of cocaine – including the notorious "cop killer" gun that can penetrate bullet-proof vests.

A bevy of machine guns, assault rifles and semi-automatic handguns are flowing into the South American country, a dozen Colombian law enforcement officials told Reuters.

Among the weapons popping up in traffickers' arsenals is the Belgium-made FN Five-seveN pistol, sources said. Nicknamed the "cop killer," the 5.7-caliber weapon can penetrate bullet-proof vests.

Military Times said the gun acquired "a cult following in the civilian market" when it went on sale in the early 2000s.

They note that armor-piercing rounds are limited only to law enforcement and military customers.

Paying coke suppliers with weapons, rather than bulky cash, helps Mexican cartels launder profits and move money around more easily, said General Fernando Murillo, head of DIJIN, the investigative division of Colombia's national police.

"Every day (conducting) drug trafficking through cash payments gets more difficult. So now they are using different methods: a Mexican cartel might pay with sophisticated arms," Murillo said.

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Most of the 1,478 long arms confiscated from Colombian armed groups in 2020 and 2021 were foreign-made and imported clandestinely, the police say, along the same smuggling routes used to get drugs out.

Mexican drug gangs have easy access to guns purchased in the United States and long-term business relationships with Colombian armed groups, from whom they have purchased cocaine for decades, Colombian authorities said.

Now cartel emissaries are increasingly paying for shipments of cocaine with guns, authorities say, in part to avoid the need to move large quantities of cash across borders.

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The potent firepower of the cartel-supplied arsenal has potential implications for Colombia's security.

Heavy arms in the hands of criminals put law enforcement at risk and could further complicate the troubled implementation of a 2016 peace deal between Bogota and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels.

Last year 148 members of the armed forces and the national police were killed in Colombia, the highest figure in six years and a 57% increase from 2020, according to figures from the Ministry of Defense.

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