Latin America Arms Transfers and Arms Trafficking Update

Latin America and the Caribbean
  • The United States Department of Defense is pursuing a new strategy for the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program of government-to-government arms sales. According to a Defense Department news release, an October 1 strategy document is “aimed at making the foreign military sales (FMS) process more responsive to allied nations’ needs by creating teams that will work closely with regional partners.” One notable aspect of this initiative might weaken provisions in existing law that ban purchasing countries’ exportation of military equipment to third countries.
  • The Ministry of the Interior in Peru initiated the acquisition of 30,000 9 mm. pistols for the National Police. This is part of a plan with the Factory of Military Arms and Munitions (FAME) to create a permanent supply of military supplies.
  • Peru’s plans to install 10 military bases in coca-producing regions and purchase military planes reflects a motivation to cut the “air bridge” that carries an estimated 54 to 72 tons of cocaine to Bolivia, largely to supply Brazilian demand. This may mean a possible renewal of a program to interdict suspicious aircraft, which was suspended after Peruvian forces shot down a plane carrying a family of U.S. missionaries in 2001.
  • Brazilian authorities have sued aerospace conglomerate Embraer SA after claims that six employees and two vice presidents bribed Dominican Republic officials with $3.5 million in order to secure a $92 million contract for Super Tucano attack planes. The charges were brought about with the investigative assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission. (These planes are featured in an August U.S. Air Force video about the Dominican Republic’s drug interdiction campaign.)
  • The U.S. Department of Defense announced a contract to sell 18 UH-60M Black Hawk helicopters to Mexico. The contract is valued at $203,500,000 for Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, the helicopter manufacturer, and will be completed by the end of May 2016. The State Department has also approved a possible sale of the UH-60 M Black Hawk helicopters to Brazil for a total cost of $145 million, which the Defense Security Cooperation Agency says “will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of Brazil, which has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in South America.” This is part of a total sale which includes training and services that will amount to $680 million.  
  • India and Russia have collaborated in the development of Brahmos II, the latest version of an antiship missile that has the capacity for a velocity of Mach 7. The countries have announced plans to export the system to Venezuela, Vietnam, and Indonesia.  
  • Four military officers in Colombia were sentenced to six years in jail for selling munitions and arms to guerrilla and criminal groups in Córdoba y Urabá. The investigation pinned retired Lt. Coronel Robinson González del Río as the head of the operation, which since 2010 had sold arms and explosives to these illegal groups from the military base in Tolemaida near Bogotá. Coronel González extracted 3,000 grenades, 100,000 rifle cartridges, and 20 rifles and rifle components using a military vehicle driven by soldier José Ignacio Silva Rincón, whose alias is ‘El Primo.’
  • The United States donated two boats and maintenance equipment to assist in the construction of an official center of operations to combat drug trafficking in Nicaragua. The two ships are valued at $1.2 million and the accompanying equipment cost over $280,000. The donation came through U.S. Southern Command with the goal of improving the operating capacity of the Nicaraguan naval forces in their fight against drug trafficking and organized crime in the region. This comes amid consideration by the Nicaraguan government to also purchase patrol boats from Russia, citing the same purposes for purchase.
  • The Brazilian producer of unmanned aerial vehicles, FT Sistemas S.A., plans to export the first Brazilian-made tactical drone to Africa this year. The Company says, “The Horus FT-100 was designed in conjunction with the Brazilian Army… to be used in typical applications of short range performed by platoons, companies or even battalions,” but has not disclosed the African destination, or the value of the export. Brazilian producers of drones present a more affordable option for countries seeking alternatives to more expensive options from the United States or Britain.
  • The Guatemalan government purchased 100 Israeli firearms for the DIGICI (General Office of Intelligence) to combat common and organized crime. The purchase included 50 Uzi submachine guns and 50 Tavor rifles. The Minister of the Interior cited the necessity of the purchase because the DIGICI officials only have pistols to combat crime in their territories.
  • The Bolivian Air Force (FAB) received six Super Puma helicopters from a French company. They will be used against drug trafficking and for civil defense, and will replace those donated by the United States. Evo Morales, the Bolivian President, said that the decision to expel the U.S. Embassy in Bolivia as well as the switch to French helicopters is to make an anti-imperialist statement. The contract with Airbus France is for more than 150 million euros.
  • After discovering that Colombia was the destination of SIG Sauer arms, the German government imposed an export ban on the company’s pistols. This ban comes amid prior allegations against SIG Sauer for illegal distribution to Kazakhstan. Since 2006, Colombia’s National Police have purchased almost 65,000 pistols from the United States, which passed through the SIG Sauer subsidiary in New Hampshire on their way to Colombia. The German government claims they were assured the arms would stay in the United States, and that the transfer to Colombia violates German law requiring a special license and usually prohibiting transfers to countries in armed conflict.