Arms Trafficking and Arms Transfers Update

Latin America and the Caribbean

This post was prepared by WOLA Intern Michael Pelzer.

  • On September 25th, Secretary of State John Kerry signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, raising the number of signatories to 107. The United States’ signature of this treaty is noteworthy considering its role as the number one arms exporter in the world, with roughly a 30% share of the $90 billion dollar global industry. The treaty seeks to stymie the flow of arms to groups who would seek to violate human rights and engage in terrorism. The bill, however, still needs to be ratified by the Senate, where it faces significant opposition by both Republican members of Congress and private interest groups like the National Rifle Association.

  • A number of South American countries have expressed an interest in South Korea’s recently unveiled FA–50 light attack aircraft. The aircraft is a multi-purpose jet fighter that can carry both air-to-air missiles and precision guided bombs. The versatility and low cost of the FA–50 make it an attractive option to South American militaries seeking to upgrade their existing air force technology.

  • Brazil and Pakistan have begun talks with the intention of broadening their industrial defense ties. The goal is to strengthen ties with an emerging market for Brazil’s growing defense sector. Pakistan is part of a region that Brazil is beginning to see as strategically more important in terms of its foreign policy goals.

  • The Panamanian government has disclosed more information on the contents of the North Korean ship canal authorities seized in July. A report by Panamanian authorities and United Nations officials indicates that the quantity of illicit content on the North Korea-bound ship was much larger than initially reported. The contents included small arms, rocket propelled grenades, ammunition, night vision gear, and artillery, as well as MIG–21 fuselages and engines. Upon the ship’s seizure, Cuba initially claimed that the contents were being sent to North Korea for repair and refurbishment; reports and photographs published by the Panamanian government, however, indicate that most items were in new condition and still in factory packaging.

  • Bolivian President Evo Morales negotiated the purchase of six Super-Puma helicopters from the French government. Bolivia claims it will purchase the helicopters for use in the war against narcotics traffickers, and as a means of updating their aging fleet. French president Francois Hollande pledged that he would negotiate with Eurocopter directly on Morales’s behalf, allowing the transfer of the first two helicopters in early 2014; transfers such as these are normally delayed a requisite 18–24 months.

  • Argentina has negotiated a $230 million deal with the Spanish government to purchase sixteen decommissioned Mirage F–1 fighter jets. The arms deal comes in response to pressure from Cristina Kirchner’s military aides, who voiced concerns over the Air Force’s nearly obsolete Mirage III fighters, which were designed and manufactured in the mid-fifties. Argentina was originally considering the purchase of a number of new aircraft. Faced with mounting energy costs and rising inflation, however, a multi-billion dollar fighter jet deal similar to one Brazil is considering was not viewed as feasible.

  • A jury was selected for the trial of seven El Salvadoran soldiers charged with the sale and distribution of illegal arms, including over 1,800 grenades. The soldiers were originally tasked with the collection and destruction of captured ordnance and weapons, but instead stashed the illicit arms for resale later. Prosecutors claim that a batch of rockets that were seized in Honduras was in fact part of a cache of explosives the seven soldiers were supposed to have destroyed.