Arms Trafficking and Arms Transfers Update

Latin America and the Caribbean

This post was compiled by WOLA Intern Mia Fasano.

  • Argentina has seen an increase in thefts of lightweight assault weapons from military arsenals. In February, it is estimated that 154 lightweight assault weapons were stolen from the 603rd Arsenal Battalion in San Lorenzo. Several of these firearms have emerged in violent street crimes within Argentina, and have also been discovered by authorities in Brazil.
  • A recent study by Brazil think-tank Sou da Paz found that an estimated 35.6 percent of the illegal arms confiscated in the country can be linked to the United States, while 44 percent of seized weapons are produced domestically. Between 1980 and 2010, Brazil has experienced a 346.5 percent increase in homicides. 
  • Brazil officials announced in December their decision to purchase nearly $5 billion worth of fighter jets from Swedish company Saab, rather than U.S. owned Boeing. In its announcement, Brazil stated that the decision owed to financial and technology transfer reasons, and not to the revelation of U.S. surveillance operations, which has been a source of great controversy in Brazil.
  • The prosecutor-general of Colombia issued arrest warrants for 15 Army officers and soldiers, charging that they were running a corruption network. The network’s activities included transfers of weapons to illegal armed groups inside Colombia and, allegedly, to the armed forces of Ecuador. The defense minister of Ecuador denied receiving any such military equipment.
  • The crew of a North Korean ship that was detained near the Panama Canal in July for carrying two MiG-21 jet fighters from Cuba, along with other Soviet-era arms, was released upon the payment of a $1 million fine. The Cuban government released a statement saying that the decades-old weapons were to be sent to North Korea for repairs, then returned to Cuba.
  • In Ecuador, the army discovered a shipment of 800 mortars and grenades along the border with Colombia. Officials believe the arms were headed to illegal armed groups, including the FARC guerrillas, that operate in the border zone. The equipment was discovered by personnel during inspection operations in the north-central province of Carchi.
  • Paraguay President Horacio Cartes met with military officials to discuss proposed investments in aircraft, military training, and transport. The proposal includes the possible purchase of the following aircraft: the T-6 “Texan II” manufactured by Beechcraft, the A-29 “Super Tucano” made by Brazil’s Embraer, the F-5 from Taiwan, and the Kfir Block 60 from Israel. The Paraguayan Army is looking to purchase a three-dimensional radar system that would provide increased aerial surveillance. President Cartes is looking to secure an international loan for the military improvements, which he views as a necessity in protecting the nation from aerial attacks. 
  • The Public Ministry of Paraguay has maintained that the direct purchase of military weapons from private import company Comtecpar are within legal bounds. Opponents claim that the investigation conducted by the Public Ministry did not properly acknowledge the unfair benefits during the bidding process or identify the number of arms imported.
  • On January 22, the Armed Forces of Venezuela received a shipment of military equipment, such as ammunition and missiles, aboard a Ukrainian cargo ship. Most of the materiel is believed to be from Russia. 
  • During a press conference in Paris, the vice president for the Latin American sector of Airbus Helicopters, Mesrob Karalekian, stated that his company’s sales to the region grew 15 percent in 2013, and that he expects growth to rise to 20 percent in the next three to five years. The Armed Forces of Bolivia recently signed a contract with Airbus Helicopters for six Super Puma AS332, which are capable of adapting to the difficult Andean terrain and will be utilized during counter-drug operations. In the entire hemisphere, Airbus is currently processing 50 to 60 requests and inbound deliveries. According to a Brazilian representative, the corporation is looking to further increase sales in Peru and Mexico, which remain key clients.