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The Justice Department's internal review of Project Gunrunner was seen by many in Mexico as evidence that the U.S. has failed to live up to its pledges to confront weapons smuggling that puts guns into the hands of the drug cartels. If anything, critics say, the problem is getting worse.

NPRs Jason Beaubien reports from Mexico City.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Many Mexican politicians view the current drug war thats claimed roughly 30,000 lives over the last four years as one more curse foisted on Mexico by their rich neighbor to the north. In this world, the incredibly violent conflict is fueled by U.S. demand for narcotics, fought with U.S. weapons and funded by U.S. cash that flows freely across the border.

(Soundbite of conversations)

BEAUBIEN: At the chamber of the Mexican Senate, Senator Sebastian Calderon Centeno says the United States hasnt done anything to curb demand for drugs or to diminish the flow of guns into Mexico. He says the drug war is actually increasing weapons trafficking.

Senator SEBASTIAN CALDERON CENTENO (Mexico): (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: The criminals are getting desperate, he says, and are trying to get more and more guns to attack the Mexican government. The senator says that most of the guns in the hands of Mexican drug traffickers are bought legally in Texas, Arizona and California. And he says the U.S. has little incentive to stop the smuggling.

Sen. CENTENO: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: This is a growing business in the U.S., Senator Calderon says, they are in the gun sales business and it doesnt benefit them to stop.

Just this week, the Mexican Ambassador to Washington, Arturo Sarukhan, again blamed lax American gun laws for fueling the drug conflict in Mexico. He said the U.S. could do more to limit the sale of weapons that eventually end up in the hands of the cartels.

Ambassador ARTURO SARUKHAN (Mexican to United States): The Founding Fathers didnt draft the 2nd Amendment to allow international organized crime to A, illicitly buy weapons in gun shops and gun shows; B, illicitly cross them over into international border; and C, sell them to individuals of a country where those calibers or types of weapons are prohibited.

BEAUBIEN: Ambassador Sarukhan was speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon also continues to call on the U.S. to crack down on weapons heading south. The ambassador says the U.S. needs to be involved in fighting the cartels, along with the Mexican authorities. He says the only way that Mexico has a chance of winning this battle is with sustained efforts from both sides of the border.

Amb. SARUKHAN: If we cant fundamentally - within whats in the books today -modify the current flow of weapons and bulk cash which are coming from the United States into Mexico and which provide the drug syndicates with their fire power and their ability to corrupt, it will be a very taxing challenge.

BEAUBIEN: There have been recent successes in gun seizures at or near the border. This summer, police in Texas got a tip that two men in a truck were moving a cache of weapons through Laredo. The authorities found 147 assault rifles and more than 10,000 rounds of ammunition in the vehicle, which they believe was headed for Mexico.

But the perception here remains that the drug cartels continue to be able to buy weapons unfettered north of the Rio Grande.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News, Mexico City.

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