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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Arms Trafficking and Arms Transfers Update

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.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Arms Trafficking and Arms Transfers Update

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.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Arms Trafficking and Arms Transfers Update

This post was prepared by WOLA Intern Laura Fontaine.

  • Much controversy has ensued after a North Korean ship traveling from Cuba through the Panama Canal was found to have missile, radar, and plane components hidden under several tons of sugar.

  • The development and use of drones is on the rise in Mexico, reports México Seguridad. They are used for surveillance, inspection, search, rescue, and protection of the environment. Mexican drone manufacturers include Jalisco-based Hydra Technologies and Monterey-based SOS Global. The Federal Police has the largest inventory of drones.

  • “Brazilian plane maker Embraer SA has sold six Super Tucano light attack planes to Guatemala to bolster its fight against drug trafficking, according to a senior executive.”

  • Of 6,000 confiscated firearms in a Guatemala sample, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms determined that at least 40 percent “had a nexus with the United States,” according to a Woodrow Wilson Center study.

  • The U.S. Army awarded Textron Marine and Land Operating Systems awarded a $5.5 million contract to provide 12 armored turrets, technical support services, vehicle repairs and spare parts for the Colombian Army’s Armored Personnel Carriers.

  • The Paraguayan Army developed plans to buy 20 refurbished trucks from Germany. They were bought for a “symbolic price” of $1 million.

  • In Paraguay, where illegal arms trafficking by military personnel has been a consistent problem in recent years, those who are accused of the crime are released before fulfilling their sentence or face a benign punishment.

  • As part of preparations for hosting a visit from Pope Francis, the World Cup, and the 2016 Olympics Brazil has made plans to buy 34 used anti-aircraft tanks from the German Army. The type of tanks they will be purchasing are “armed with two 35 mm guns mounted on a rotating turret atop a Leopard 1 tank chassis.”

  • Peruvian President Ollanta Humala participated in a ceremony of inspecting and sending 42 specially equipped trucks to a region, known as the VRAEM, where the remnants of the Shining Path armed group still remain.

  • The Law for Disarmament, Control of Arms and Munitions in Venezuela has granted an administrative and commercial monopoly of all arms to the Ministry of Defense.

  • A decree has been added to a law Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff signed into the books in March of last year regarding the Brazilian defense contractors and strengthening of the military industry. “The bill under the heading of ‘Law to promote the industrial base of defense’ is geared to incentivize Brazil’s arms industry so that it becomes the main provider of the Armed Forces; to develop technologies, produce at lesser costs, introduce the most added value to those products and increase exports.”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Arms trafficking and arms transfers update

  • About 2.2 percent of all weapons purchased in the United States end up in Mexico, according to a statistical analysis by the Igarapé Institute and the University of San Diego Transborder Institute.
  • Brazil inaugurated a new shipyard and military base, which will host a plan, requiring investment of US$3.9 billion through 2017, to build and host five sumbarines (one of them nuclear) and 50 helicopters. The plan, carried out with French support, will produce the nuclear sub by 2023.
  • Brazil’s Embraer aerospace company won a U.S. contract to provide Afghanistan’s air force with 20 Super Tucano light air support aircraft. The contract is valued at US$427 million but could go as high as US$950 million.
  • Brazil’s defense ministry is recommending that the government buy Russian-made anti-aircraft systems: “We are interested in acquiring three batteries of medium level Pantsir-S1 missiles and two batteries of Igla missiles.”
  • Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft, maker of the Blackhawk helicopter, “is tripling the size of its in-country Blackhawk maintenance service team in Colombia, as the company repairs seven helicopters.” With more than 60 of the helicopters, which cost at least US$15 million apiece, Colombia has the fourth-largest Blackhawk fleet in the world.
  • Of weapons that Colombian paramilitary members turned in during 2003-2006 demobilization ceremonies, the majority came from countries that have never officially sold arms to Colombia. The weapons’ top five countries of origin were the United States, Russia, Bulgaria, North Korea and China.
  • Canada is amending its Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL) to allow expanded military hardware sales to Colombia. According to the Canadian foreign ministry, the intent is to sell armored personnel carriers to Colombia’s military.
  • The French corporations DCNS and Thales have been carrying out a contract to modernize Colombian Navy frigates.
  • In 2012, according to Colombia’s defense ministry, in 2012 the country’s armed forces and police trained “3,252 foreign students in different areas, among them 24 Mexican and four Dominican pilots.”
  • With help from the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Guatemalan government’s National Forensic Sciences Institute can now use the “E-Trace” system, which determines whether recovered weapons were sold in the United States.
  • Ecuador paid US$10 million for 107 Hummer vehicles from the United States: 100 for its army and 7 for its navy.
  • Peru has ordered five Hovercraft amphibious patrol boats from the United Kingdom for about US$13 million. They will be used to “strengthen the fight against terrorism and narcotrafficking in the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM),” a region where conflict continues with remnants of the Shining Path guerrillas.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Arms trafficking and arms transfers update

  • The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) delivered a petition, developed in cooperation with more than a dozen human rights and anti-gun violence groups, to Vice-President Biden’s gun control task force. It was signed by 55,000 people from the United States and Mexico. A copy was also delivered to the American Embassy in Mexico City. The petition called for executive actions to curtail the rampant smuggling into Mexico of weapons purchased in the United States. Speaking to reporters at a separate event in Washington, ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora said, “The Second Amendment … is not, was never and should not be designed to arm foreign criminal groups.” President Obama’s Wednesday announcement of 23 actions he plans to take to address gun violence did not include any of the actions requested in the petition.

  • On Christmas Eve, Mexico City’s government launched a cash-for-weapons exchange program, “Por Tu Familia Desarme Voluntario” or “For your family: Voluntary disarmament.” Officials in charge of the program decided to extend the exchange past December 31 after 900 weapons were exchanged for cash, toys and tablet computers. Mexico’s Defense Department recognizes that only one of every 300 weapons circulating in the country is legal.

  • An Ecuadorian general said he has seen an increase in FARC arms-trafficking activity near the Colombian border since the process started. FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda denied it, saying the FARC are instead arming themselves with “much patience and many arguments” for the talks, and blaming “the extreme right in the continent taking shots at the peace process.”

  • Canada changed its Automatic Firearms Country Control List to allow the export of weapons and devices that are prohibited in Canada — such as fully automatic firearms — to Colombia. The change came after a recommendation by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed objections based on concerns about armed conflict and human rights in Colombia.

  • Colombia’s Air Force increased its order to Airbus Military, a European military and defense manufacturer, from five C295 transport planes to six. Colombia has already received four of the planes and now awaits the arrival of two more. The first four cost 100 million euros (US$133 million).

(Written with assistance from WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Stop gun smuggling: a petition from Mexico's Alianza Cívica

Mexico's Alianza Cívica is asking people worldwide to sign this electronic petition, which asks President Obama to take three steps to limit the torrent of U.S.-purchased weapons illegally entering Mexico.

  1. Immediately detain and prohibit the importation of assault weapons to the United States, because many of them are sent as contraband to Mexico.
  2. Order dealers to report to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) the sale of multiple assault rifles to the same person over a period of five days.
  3. Increase the regulatory capacity of the ATF in those regions of the United States that supply the weapons contraband to Mexico, especially in border states.

The ease with which criminals obtain high-powered weapons at U.S. gun shops and gun shows is increasing the death toll in Mexico. If you agree that the United States needs to do more, please take a minute and add your name to the petition.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Podcast: The Week Ahead: U.S. weapons in Mexico, Central America security conference, Bolivia coca

Adam looks at a new Senate report on U.S. weapons' illegal flow into violence-wracked Mexico, next week's citizen security conference of Central American governments and donor nations, and security and coca-growing developments in Bolivia.

Subscribe to the "Just the Facts" podcast here and on iTunes. Thank you for listening.


Monday, January 31, 2011

Podcast: The week ahead: January 31 - February 4, 2011

A visit from Colombia's defense minister. Cutbacks to control of arms smuggled into Mexico. Brazil's president visits Argentina, but America's president doesn't.

Subscribe to the "Just the Facts" podcast here and on iTunes. Thank you for listening.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Helping Mexico

Amid skyrocketing rates of drug-related violence in Mexico, President Felipe Calderón said the following on Monday, while meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy:

If the Mexican Army, the Federal Police, and local police are working and risking their lives for this fight [against narcotrafficking], in the name of the hundreds of Mexican police who have died, it is fundamental that the United States assume, through deeds, its part of the responsibility for this fight."

Part of the U.S. responsibility would be helping to stop the flow of U.S. guns into Mexico. However, yesterday's Wall Street Journal presented some chilling statistics showing how great the problem of U.S. arms smuggling is and how little has been done.

The fighting is being waged with thousands of American-purchased or stolen weapons flowing south illegally each year, U.S. officials say.

The State Department recently estimated U.S.-originated guns were used in 95% of Mexico's drug-related killings. The number of such murders more than doubled to almost 6,000 last year, up from about 2,700 in 2007.

Meanwhile, U.S. authorities seized only 257 weapons heading south at border checkpoints in 2008 -- and a total of just 733 dating back to the start of 2005, according to data Homeland Security officials provided to The Wall Street Journal.