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Marta Campabadal Graus
By Marta Campabadal Graus June 15, 2023

Claim that a Mexican cartel has weapons sent to Ukraine lacks evidence

If Your Time is short

  • An U.S. podcast host misrepresented a Mexican TV newscast by saying that a Javelin the United States sent to Ukraine ended in the hands of a Mexican cartel. 

  • That’s not what the Spanish-speaking anchor said. 

  • Experts also say the supposed cartel member is carrying an AT4, not a Javelin.


Social media users are claiming that a Mexican news report said that a Javelin, an anti-tank missile weapon, the United States sent to Ukraine is now in the hands of a Mexican cartel. 

A TikTok video features a clip from the podcast Redacted, hosted by Natali Morris, a former CNET and CBS technology analyst, and Clayton Morris, a former Fox News anchor. The hosts show a Spanish-language newscast segment and translate it.

The Spanish video shows a news anchor reporting that a presumed member of the Gulf Cartel (‘Cartel Golfo’ in Spanish)  in Tamaulipas, Mexico, was recorded carrying "one of the most exclusive and powerful" weapons, a Javelin, and that in theory it’s seen only in the military. The clip ends and Natali Morris translates what the anchor said, adding, "Yeah, this came from Ukraine." 

"She also reports that dozens of U.S. AT4 weapons that were made in Sweden, originally given away to Zelenskyy in Ukraine, have indeed shown up in Mexico," Natalie Morris said, adding that weapons sent to Ukraine are now "in the hands of the cartel."

The TikTok video’s caption said: "All those millions they sent to Ukraine for weapons now are in the hand's Mexican cartel."

TikTok identified the video as part of its efforts to counter inauthentic, misleading or false content. (Read more about PolitiFact’s partnership with TikTok.)

Russia Today, the state-controlled international news network funded by the Russian government, in a May 31 article also connected the man in the newscast to the weapons the U.S. has sent to Ukraine.

But this claim has two big problems. The podcast host misrepresented the segment and the Mexican TV anchor misidentified the weapon. 

PolitiFact found the full segment of the Mexican TV newscast. The anchor said the weapon carried by the supposed cartel member is the same type that is being used by Ukraine’s military. But she doesn’t say that the weapon went from Ukraine to Mexico. 

The newscast also included videos that the anchor said showed a Javelin being used by the U.S. military in training exercises.

Featured Fact-check

The weapon that the U.S. military members are shown using is a Javelin, but that’s not what the presumed cartel member was carrying, said Mark Hvizda, a defense analyst at the Rand Corp., a global policy think tank. He told PolitiFact that the person instead appears to be carrying an AT4 recoilless weapon.

"I am not able to confirm that the AT4 shown in the video is specifically a U.S.-produced AT4," Hvizda said. "These weapons are in service with a number of different militaries around the world, so it could potentially be from a non-U.S. stock." 

Firearm Industry Association data and Associated Press reporting show that the United States retail market is the biggest source for firearms for Mexican cartels. 

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The difference between an AT4 and a Javelin

The M136 AT4 is an 84-mm unguided recoilless weapon, whereas the FGM-148 Javelin is an anti-tank guided missile (ATGM).

This means that the Javelin uses a Command Launch Unit (CLU) to lock onto a target before the user fires the weapon. An AT4 is purely unguided. According to Jane’s, an agency for open-source defense intelligence, AT4 has a maximum range of 1,312 feet, whereas the Javelin has a maximum range of 8,202 feet.

Our ruling

A TikTok video claimed to show a cartel member in Mexico carrying a Javelin that the U.S. sent to Ukraine.

We found no evidence that a Mexican cartel obtained U.S. weapons destined for Ukraine. Experts told PolitiFact that the man in the video is carrying what appears to be an AT4 weapon, not a Javelin. 

We rate this claim False.

Read this fact-check in Spanish.

Our Sources

TikTok, Video, June 6, 2023

Milenio TV, Cártel del Golfo tiene armas utilizadas en la guerra en Ucrania, May 31, 2023

The Associated Press, Mistranslated news report sparks baseless claim about Mexican cartel getting weapon from Ukraine, June 2, 2023 

Newsweek, Video of Mexican Cartels Using 'Ukraine-Sourced' Javelin Launcher Debunked, June 2, 2023 

Russia Today, Weapon US gave Ukraine spotted in hands of Mexican cartel – media

Youtube, Cártel del Golfo tiene armas utilizadas en la guerra en Ucrania, May 31, 2023

Deezer, Redacted News, accessed on June 9, 2023

Twitter, Search for similar posts, June 8, 2023

Phone interview with Nathan Jones, June 8, 2023

Email interview with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, June 9, 2023

Email interview with Mark Hvizda, Defense Analyst at the RAND Corporation, June 9, 2023

Narco Politics by Ioan Grillo, The Truth About Cartel Rockets and Ukraine, June 1, 2023

Tweet, Ioan Grillo, June 1, 2023 

Tweet, Embajada de Rusia en México, May 31, 2023

Global Security, M136 AT4 Manual Chapter 3,  accessed on June 9, 2023

Ryan McBeth, Is Ukraine selling Javelin Anti-tank missiles to Cartels?, June 1, 2023

Futurism, U.S. military admits that it lost 34 rocket launchers. Many stolen firearms resurfaced later in violent crimes, June 16, 2021

The Firearm Industry Trade Association, Firearm production in the United States with Firearm import and export data, 2020

Tweet, Ioan Grillo, June 1, 2023

Department of the Army - Army National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve, Shoulder-Launched Munitions Manual, September 2010

Narco Politics by Ioan Grillo, The Truth About Cartel Rockets and Ukraine, June 1, 2023

Global, Chapter 3, M136 AT4, Operation and function, accessed June 9, 2023

Russia Today, Weapon US gave Ukraine spotted in hands of Mexican cartel – media, May 31, 2023

Twitter, Search "ukraine AT-4 mexico", June 8, 2023

Tweet, Citizen Free Press, May 31, 2023

Jane, What we do, accessed June 12, 2023

The Associated Press, AP: Some stolen US military guns used in violent crimes, June 15, 2021

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Claim that a Mexican cartel has weapons sent to Ukraine lacks evidence

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