EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – As many as 23 Mexican law-enforcement officers could soon be working on U.S. soil tracking weapons smuggling networks, a top Mexican official says.

“The United States has accepted that Mexico send up to 20 or 23 agents who will focus on the gun issue. This is to apply the principle of reciprocity. […] Just like we have presence of U.S. agents in Mexico, we, too will have agents in the United States for the issue that concerns us, which is mainly weapons” trafficking into Mexico, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said.

Speaking to a group of Mexican senators on an online broadcast Saturday, Ebrard said the move will be part of the Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health and Safe Communities agreed upon by both countries last October. He said U.S. Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General and Counselor for International Affairs Bruce Swartz has been part of discussions that will continue this week.

“On Monday we have a meeting in Mexico City to begin the work, to present the plan of action which has already been outlined and I think we are in a good moment in that aspect of public safety,” Ebrard said.

Mexico has long blamed much of its violence on guns smuggled from the United States. Mexico has stringent gun control laws – citizens can only purchase guns through permits from the Army – and often traces to the United States weapons used to commit murders in their country.

“We estimate that half a million weapons are trafficked from the U.S. to Mexico every year. The problem is that all this weaponry is getting to the criminal organizations, giving them very strong firepower to commit all kinds of crimes,” Mexican Consul General in El Paso Mauricio Ibarra Ponce de Leon told Border Report late last year.

Border Report on Monday requested comment from the Justice Department and is awaiting a response.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico issued statements highlighting binational efforts against weapons traffickers. One concerned the initial meeting of a subgroup within the Bicentennial Framework (the Binational Group Against Arms Smuggling). The other was a statement by U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar.

“The governments of the US and Mexico … renewed our joint commitment to combating criminal arms trafficking, human smuggling and illegal narcotics flows that victimize the people of both nations.  We look forward to increased collaboration under the Bicentennial Framework to ensure the safety of the citizens in both our countries,” Salazar said.

The Binational Group Against Arms Smuggling includes various security and law enforcement agencies from both countries. They mean to increase seizures of weapons on both sides of the border intended for illegal sale in Mexico and to prosecute arms smugglers.

The working group also committed to increasing extraditions to both countries, speeding up case processing, strengthening mirrored patrols on the border, modernizing border inspection technology, and improving information sharing.

Mexican lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers

Ebrard also talked about his country’s lawsuit against U.S. guns manufacturers for negligence in allegedly selling weapons they know will be used to commit crimes in Mexico.

“Now there is this Bicentennial understanding that is based on the idea of mutual respect where the issues that Mexico wants to put on the table are seen as a priority,” the foreign minister said. “That is why we sued gun manufacturers in the United States, which is something unprecedented.

He said his government believes it can win the case – which could help reduce weapons trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico.

Ebrard said Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the Biden administration are finding common issues, such as identifying and doing something about the root causes of migration as well as strengthening economic ties. Also, the U.S. is trying to stem the northward flood of the deadly synthetic drug fentanyl, which Ebrard said also worries Mexico.

“We are on a route of mutual respect. There are already results on various fronts,” the foreign minister told the group of senators from Lopez Obrador’s MORENA Party.