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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.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Analysis: The Obama administration's new arms sales policy

A new blog post by the Center for International Policy’s William Hartung highlights the first policy directive on conventional arms sales in almost two decades, released by the Obama administration on January 15. The language of the directive emphasizes that human rights be a key part of arms sales decision making, while also pushing for greater promotion of U.S. exports. This new policy comes as the administration has loosened other controls on certain arms exports. Hartung determined:

The release of the new arms transfer policy directive provides an opportunity for Congress to take a closer look at the administration’s arms export decontrol initiative and make changes that will ensure that all significant military items continue to be carefully scrutinized on human rights grounds, and that any loopholes that may make it easier for smugglers to successfully transfer U.S. equipment into the wrong hands are closed.

This new policy will have a significant impact on U.S. arms sales to the region that go through three programs tracked by Just the Facts: the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales program, the Direct Commercial Sales program, and the Excess Defense Articles program. In 2011, arms sales to the region through these three programs totaled over $3 billion.

For more information on the directive and its effect, read the post in its entirety on Security Assistance Monitor, a global expansion of Just the Facts that tracks U.S. security assistance worldwide. Stay tuned for the expansion, as Just the Facts will be merged with Security Assistance Monitor soon!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Week in Review

This post was written by CIP intern Benjamin Fagan.

The following is a round-up of some of the top articles and news highlights from around the region over the past week.

Inter American Court of Human Rights

  • Peruvian Judge Diego Garcia-Sayan, President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH), said that the use of military for domestic law enforcement was acceptable in the fight against crime. Charles Parkinson of InSight Crime noted, “his endorsement of the use of the army for citizen security may affect claims made against military human rights abuses before the CIDH, which is often the only serious option available to citizens as military personnel tend to be tried in closed military courts.”
  • Argentina

  • A new report was released by the Centro de Estudios Legales about extrajudicial killings by members of Bueno Aires’ Metropolitan Police.
  • Arms transfers

  • The Russian Defense Minister is set to travel to Brazil and Peru to discuss the sale of military technology to the South American nations. Brazil is set to buy anti-aircraft system batteries and Peru is in talks to acquire tanks. Both deals are expected to be valued at millions of dollars.
  • The United States donated six UH1Y helicopters to the Guatemalan Air Force to combat drug trafficking, along with navigational and infrastructure equipment all purported to be valued at $40 million. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said the donation was, “a show of confidence in Guatemala by the United States government.”
  • Chile

  • Michelle Bachelet, the center-left candidate for president, is likely to win the race in mid-November, according to new opinion polls. Ms. Bachelet, who already has held Chile’s highest office, is polling at 33%, meaning a run-off vote is likely. In Chile, a candidate must gain 50% of the vote in the first round to avoid a runoff.
  • Brazil

  • Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has demanded explanations from the Canadian government over allegations of spying on the country’s energy and mining sectors. Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail quoted American journalist Glenn Greenwald, “There is a huge amount of stuff about Canada in these archives because Canada works so closely with the NSA.” This is just the latest in allegations of spying on Brazil.
  • This week ongoing teachers protests turned violent in the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, with police responding with tear gas. Al Jazeera writes, “Rio's police forces have come under criticism in recent months for their forceful responses to a series of street protests that have swept the city since June.” One incident that has gained notoriety in the country is the Facebook picture of a Rio police officer holding a broken baton with the caption “My bad, Teach.” More from Southern Pulse.
  • The Associated Press reported that while homicides have dropped in Rio de Janeiro since 2007, disappearances have “shot up,” fueling speculation about the police’s role in recent disappearances in the city. These concerns come a week after ten police officers were charged with the murder of Amarildo de Souza, a bricklayer who lived in Rocinha, a slum targeted by the police pacifying units that are attempting to control Rio’s slums.
  • Colombia

  • A plane crashed during an anti-drug operation killing three Americans and a Panamanian and injuring two others. The aircraft was tracking boats suspected of smuggling illicit substances when it crashed in northern Colombia near Capurgana. The mission was part of Operation Martillo, a security agreement meant to stem the flow of illegal drugs in the Caribbean region.
  • Daniel Mejia from the Universidad de los Andes criticized irregularities in a study published by former and current Monsanto contractors on the effectiveness of coca fumigation. In an interview, Mejia, Colombia’s leading drug policy expert noted, “there is a strong scientific base to question what we are doing with the fumigation of glyphosate.” The researcher also said the government tried to censor information indicating aerial fumigation is harmful and ineffective.
  • Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America believes that the FARC peace talks could provide an opening to end fumigation programs, stating, “Both sides should commit to bringing the fumigation program to an end, and to replacing it with voluntary manual eradication, as part of a larger effort to bring the civilian part of the government to long-neglected areas.” The post looked at three reasons why the government should abandon aerial coca fumigation.
  • In an opinion piece, Laura Gil wrote that the Colombian government’s decision to not release an agreement that awarded Ecuador $15 million in damages over the use of glyphosate on the countries shared border was to stifle criticism of the controversial practice. On Thursday, the agreement, along with extensive commentary, was posted on El Tiempo.
  • The Independent published a chilling article by journalist James Bargent on the trafficking of girls in Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellin. Gangs in the city have been known to recruit girls as young as ten years old to be sold to the highest bidder, often times drug lords or foreign tourists.
  • Venezuela

  • President Nicolas Maduro has asked for decree granting powers, allowing him to bypass the legislature to tackle the country’s economic woes and rampant corruption. The Financial Times noted that Maduro “needs the votes of 99 lawmakers in the National Assembly … meaning that he needs to lure one independent or opposition legislator.” More from the Pan-American Post.
  • El Salvador

  • In an opinion piece in the New York Times, Salvadoran journalist Óscar Martínez argued the Salvadoran government’s failure to take credit for its role in facilitating a gang truce that has “already saved more than 2,000 lives,” could eventually cause the truce to fall apart. More from Central American Politics blog.
  • Honduras

  • In mid-September, Honduran authorities announced that working closely with the Drug Enforcement Administration they had taken down $800 million in assets of Los Cachiros, a major drug trafficking organization. This week it was revealed that members of the organization were told about the operation at least a month in advance, allowing them to clear out banks accounts and sell considerable assets in advance of the raid. InSight Crime examined the U.S.’ role in the affair, noting that this U.S. push against narco-corruption “may be too late and might provoke a violent backlash.”
  • There has been an average of more than ten massacres per month in Honduras this year, El Heraldo reported. As the rate stands, the country is on track to register well over the 115 massacres recorded last year. Massacre is defined as the murder of three or more people.
  • Cuba/Panama/North Korea

  • According to McClatchy, “two Cuban MiG-21 jet fighters found aboard a seized North Korean cargo ship three months ago were in good repair, had been recently flown and were accompanied by ‘brand-new’ jet engines, Panamanian officials say.” Cuba had claimed all equipment found in the hidden arms shipment was obsolete and being sent to North Korea for repair.
  • 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)

    Monday, January 14, 2013

    Drones in Latin America

    The military use of robotics, especially unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones,” is growing worldwide, and Latin America is participating fully in the trend. Countries are purchasing drones, and even developing their own, for a variety of purposes. For the most part, they are doing so without U.S. involvement.

    Using secondary sources, WOLA Intern Anna Kroos put together this list of recent drone-related activity in the region.


    Brazil leads the way on global commercial drone boom,” - John Otis, GlobalPost, January 6, 2013

    Brazil, which spent $350 million for 14 Israeli drones in 2010 to monitor Amazon rainforest and border regions, “is now grappling with both the benefits and the Big Brother concerns.” For now, Brazil has suspended plans to use drones to monitor crime in favelas, due to air traffic control concerns.

    Brasil utiliza aviones no tripulados en la frontera” – La Razón (Bolivia), October 19, 2012

    For the first time, the Brazilian air force used drones to patrol its border with Bolivia. Brazilian police used images provided by the UAV to intercept a suspicious vehicle that tried to run an army roadblock. Part of the larger Operation Agata VI operation, the UAVs assist 7,500 soldiers deployed to reinforce Brazil’s borders with Bolivia and Peru against drug trafficking and smuggling. The troops are deployed for two weeks.

    Por Primera vez Brasil usa aviones no tripulados para vigilar frontera con Bolivia” - Xinhua (China), October 19, 2012

    The Brazilian air force used drones for the first time in a training mission near the border-zone town of Cáceres. Two drones were used in a training mission implemented by the Federal Highway Police as part of Operation Agata VI, a joint army, navy, and air force mission in which fighter jets, combat helicopters, patrol boats, soldiers, and now drones are used to patrol the Brazilian borders with Peru and Bolivia.

    Brasil utilizará mas aviones no tripulados en sus fronteras” - Agence France Presse, October 21, 2012

    Brazil’s Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, announced the end to Brazil’s two-week operation in which troops and drones were deployed along the Peruvian and Bolivian borders. The Minister reported the seizure of 1.1 tons of cocaine, 14 vehicles, 221 boats, and 8 arrests.

    Brazil Tests Drones to Monitor Rio Favelas” - Victoria Rossi, InsightCrime, Sept. 11, 2012

    Brazil is trying out drones that could be used to track criminal activity in favelas. Drones, manufactured using Israeli technology, would be used to clear drug gang controlled favelas before the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Brazil has also donated drones to Bolivia to help find illegal coca plantations.

    Brasil comenzara a operar aviones no tripulados desarollados en el pais” – Xinhua (China), July 25, 2012

    Brazil is beginning to operate 4 drones that were developed and constructed by engineers from the Istituo Militare Ingenieria (IME). Three will be used for security, surveillance, and remote monitoring while one will be used for environmental surveillance. The drones cost Brazil 180,000 reales (US$90,000). They plan on selling the models to other countries.

    Argentina y Brasil quieren fabricar en conjunto avion no tripulado” – Associated Press, April 17, 2012

    The foreign ministers of Argentina and Brazil are cooperating to produce drones to be used in the fight against drug trafficking and to protect borders. Using technology from Israel’s Elbit Systems, Brazil and Argentina will develop and sell drones.


    Chile está fabricando aviones no tripulados” - El Sol (Mendoza, Argentina), November 27, 2012

    The Chilean government announced that it will begin manufacturing drones, embarking on the next “generation of drones.” It plans to have 18 unmanned aircraft operational for the Chilean Air Force by March 2014. Authorities were reluctant to release this announcement, fearing that Peru and Bolivia will become threatened by this new tool of war. The drones will be used for military objectives but also for the search and rescue of people, and a tool in aiding forest fires. Chile already has an aircraft purchased in 2010 from Israel.

    Chile se lanza a la carrera regional para fabricar aviones no tripulados” - Carlos Vergara, La Nación (Argentina), November 27, 2012

    The Chilean military successfully tested the first drone developed in the country. It will be used for rescue tasks, monitoring rivers, volcanoes, and disasters. Funds are also being allocated for the development of 18 additional drones, operational by March 2014. The government has handled the news discreetly given the controversy with the United States’ use of drones in the Middle East, in addition to Bolivia’s apprehension about a stronger Chilean military. Though worry surrounds Chile’s new development, drones are becoming prominent in the region with Brazil’s purchase of 2 Hermes drones from Israel, and an expected 14 Heron to be completed before the World Cup and Olympics. Ecuador has 6 Heron, Venezuela 2 Iranian Mohajer. Possible legislation has been discussed that would force Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile to use drones only for peaceful purposes.

    Chile adquirió aviones no tripulados para vigilar frontera con Peru” - El Comercio (Peru), October 6, 2011

    Chilean Minister of Defense Andrés Allamand confirmed Chile’s purchase of UAVs from Israeli company Elbit Systems. Allamand noted the drones will be used for border control, particularly on the Peruvian and Bolivian borders. They will be used to defend, but also to combat drug trafficking. Jorge Montoya, the former Chairman of the Peruvian joint chiefs, said this is important considering the drones’ ability to fly undetected and the ability to equip them with cameras and explosives.


    Colombia vende hasta aviones no tripulados” – Revista Dinero (Colombia), October 31, 2012

    Brazil and some Central American and Caribbean countries have expressed interest in acquiring Colombian drones and technology. Juan Carlos Pinzon, Colombia’s minister of defense, made the announcement at Expodefense, an international security exhibition in Bogota drawing 100 domestic and foreign companies. Previously drones were only used to protect economic infrastructure, like pipelines; now they will be able to adapt to military attacks as well. Colombia first acquired drones from the United States in 2006 to help find 3 U.S. citizen contractors held hostage by the FARC.

    Colombia celebra Expodefensa con ‘drones’ y radares en fase de constucion” - EFE, October 30, 2012

    Expodefense, in its third year, brought in 67 international and 27 Colombian vendors in attempts to establish itself as a reference in Latin American defense technology. The exhibition provided the context for Colombia to announce its future use of drones for military. Colombia’s security budget reflects this desire for development, with $14,426,000 allocated to defense and security. Colombia wishes to develop its drone technology similar to Korea’s and Israel’s development.

    Colombia to develop its own drone program to combat drug trafficking” - Fox News Latino, October 26, 2012

    Colombia announced its intention to begin developing drones for military use. Up to this point, drones were used strictly for civilian missions like monitoring pipelines often attacked by FARC, hostage rescue efforts, and general surveillance. The government was vague on whether the drones are fully equipped for combat operations.

    ‘Drones’ - Laura Gil, *El Tiempo (Colombia), May 1, 2012; English translation by Douglas Myles Rasmussen

    Noting the use of U.S. drones in Colombia in 2006 for use in a U.S. hostage situation, the article documents the recent use of the drones to gather information on FARC and to track drug traffickers. Moving from civilian use of drones to military use, Colombia looks to the Israeli firm Elbit to purchase $50 million armed Hermes 900.

    Colombia considers purchase of Israeli unmanned drones” - Marc Hall, Colombia Reports (Colombia), April 17, 2012

    Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and Ehud Barak, Pinzón’s Israeli counterpart, met in April to discuss Colombia’s purchase of drones from Israel. Pinzón discussed the desire for drones as an effort to “continue strengthening the military capacity of Colombia.” The drones will be used to fight transnational crime.

    Israel estudiará la venta de aviones no tripulados a Colombia” – EFE, April 12, 2012

    Pinzón and Barak are negotiating Colombia’s possible purchase of drones from Israel. Limitations and restrictions are being placed on the possible transaction. The two defense ministers are also working to create a “strategic dialogue, share information, share doctrine, and have a dialogue more permanent than a business relationship.”

    Colombia quiere aviones no tripulados en lucha contra las FARC” - Sergio Gomez Maseri, El Tiempo (Colombia), March 30, 2012

    U.S. and Colombian officials are negotiating Colombia’s attainment of drones and spy helicopters. Colombia justifies their need for drones as the quickest and most effective way to implement “Espada de Honor,” a strategy to combat FARC. Colombia wants 10 Black Hawk Helicopters and an uncertain number of drones. The U.S. government is reluctant, and Colombian officials must convince Washington that the drones are necessary.

    WikiLeaks: Colombia began using U.S. drones for counterterrorism in 2006” - Karen DeYoung, The Washington Post, March 23, 2011.

    The United States supplied Colombia surveillance drones for counterterrorism, then-U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William B. Wood states in documents released by WikiLeaks. The drones were initially sent to support U.S. hostage rescue efforts but the document noted that they could also be used to combat terrorists and interdict drugs on rivers.

    Dominican Republic:

    Napolitano’s visit heralds drones over Dominican skies” – Dominican Today (Dominican Republic), July 16, 2012

    Janet Napolitano, U.S. secretary of homeland security, visited the Dominican Republic in July to sign an agreement allowing the Dominican Republic to use drones to track drug cartels who cross Dominican territory to transport drugs to Puerto Rico.

    RD tambien usara avion no tripulado contra narco” – El Día (Dominican Republic), July 4, 2012

    The Dominican Republic will be using drones to monitor and fight drug trafficking. Monitoring the maritime region between Venezuela/Colombia and the Dominican Republic, drones will promote maritime vigilance similar to technology used on the U.S.-Mexico border. Local staff will be trained by U.S. specialists.


    La nueva apuesta de la Semar: aviones no tripulados en Mexico” - Guillermo Guerrero, Milenio (Mexico), Aug 28, 2012

    Mexico is building drones, similar to the ones the U.S. government uses to monitor the border. The drones will be used in floods, natural disasters and to combat organized crime. So far they have 3 aircraft with the latest technology and are designing two models, a larger model with an undercarriage and a mini model to be used in the field.


    El primer avión no tripulado de Perú” – Perú21 (Peru), December 14, 2011

    Peru’s air force (FAP) has developed an unmanned aircraft with electronic warfare using 100% domestic technology. It will continue to develop drone technology in 2012 hoping to develop an autonomous aeronautics industry. The FAP hopes to develop 12 more aircraft and continue developing drone technology to strengthen its deterrent capability, allowing for civic action flights to remote villages on the Amazon and the border; the FAP also hopes to use this development in a technology transfer.

    Conozca los drones peruanos aviones no tripulados fabricados en Peru” -, July 12, 2012

    Peru has developed three different kinds of drones for use in intelligence gathering. The FAP, under Carlos Ocio, began its own research in 1999 successfully developing one prototype before unsuccessfully crashing another. The program was revived in 2004 under the name Condor Project developing a FLIR (forward-looking infrared) system, equipped with four cameras. The program lacked funding so it wasn’t until CONCYTEC and Comando Conjunto formed an association before all 3 models were successfully developed.

    Peru construirá aviones no tripulados” - TV Perú (government of Peru), Auguast 2, 2012 (video)

    The Peruvian air force (FAP) will coordinate with the National Council for Science and Technology and Technological Innovation (CONCYTEC) to begin producing drones. They hope to mass produce the drones with the hope of financing the venture.


    Venezuela detecta con avion no tripulado una avion en frontera Colombia” – EFE, September 26, 2012

    President Hugo Chávez announced that Venezuela had captured a plane, presumably carrying drugs, on the Colombian border; the plane was detected by a drone Venezuela developed with Iran. The government highlighted the use of the drones, saying it “helped a lot.” The drone was built in June for the “defensive power of the nation” and as Julio Morales Prieto, president of Cavim (Venezuelan military industrial corporation) noted, it is the second best in South America and will be used for reconnaissance.

    Aviones no tripulados venezolanos: Defensa, soberania, y revolucion” - Anais Lucena, Radio Mundial (government of Venezuela), June 27, 2012

    In cooperation with Russia, China, and Iran, Venezuela developed 3 drones, manufactured in the country with training and technology from Iran. The drones, equipped only with cameras, are for the purpose of safeguarding national security and to monitor rivers. President Chávez and the government highlight the benefit of drones in dangerous or inaccessible places and note the necessity of modernizing the military. Venezuela joins other South American countries Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia, which have contracted to obtain drones, as well as Argentina, Mexico, and Peru which developed their own. Chávez denounces the United States’ criticism of this development, noting the double standard in American use of armed drones in Afghanistan.

    Venezuela fabrica avion no tripulado con apoyo de Iran” – Reuters/EFE, El Universo (Guayaquil, Ecuador), June 15, 2012

    The announcement of Venezuela’s development of drones comes at the same time the U.S. government seeks to limit Iran’s influence in Latin America. The Venezuelan drones, developed with Iranian technology, were being investigated by the U.S. prior to Chavez’s announcement on June 13, 2012. Venezuela maintains the use of the drones is solely defensive.

    Chavez presentó el primer avión no tripulado fabricado en Venezuela” – DPA, June 14, 2012

    Venezuela contracted with Russia to develop drones, among other defense projects funded with US$4 billion in credits from Russia, said Gen. Julio César Morales, head of the state defense industry corporation (CAVIM), the drones’ manufacturer. President Chávez expressed the need to consolidate defensive power in order to ensure the independence of Venezuela.

    Chávez muestra primer avión no tripulado para uso militar” - Agénce France Presse, June 14, 2012

    Chavez announced that with the support of Iran, Russia, and China, Venezuela has its first drone for military and civilian use, and affirms that it will begin exportation. They have already manufactured 3 drones and will continue to manufacture for defense, reconnaissance, and to protect pipelines, forests, roads, and dams. The parts are made in Venezuela and assembled by military engineers trained in Iran.

    Tuesday, September 4, 2012

    CRS: Recent Trends in Arms Transfers

    On August 24, 2012, the Congressional Research Service released its annual report (PDF) on conventional arms transfers to the developing world from 2004-2011. This report provides an account of the level of arms transfers by major weapons suppliers to countries in the developing world. Written by Richard Grimmett and Paul Kerr, this report is often referred to as the "Grimmett Report."

    According to this year's report, trends in arms transfer agreements (represent orders for future delivery) with and actual arms deliveries to developing nations were on the rise in 2011. Total arms transfer agreements were valued at $71.5 billion in 2011, a substantial increase from $32.7 billion in 2010, with the United States and Russia dominating the list of suppliers in the world market. The value of all arms deliveries to the developing nations was $28 billion, "the highest total in these deliveries values since 2004."

    The current trend in the Latin American market, as noted by the CRS, shows countries seeking strategic modernization of their military. The report attributes the selectivity of these purchases to constraints by financial resources.

    A few developing nations in Latin America ... have sought to modernize key sectors of their military forces. In recent years, some nations in these regions have placed large arms orders, by regional standards, to advance that goal. Many countries within these regions are significantly constrained by their financial resources and thus limited to the weapons they can purchase. Given the limited availability of seller-supplied credit and financing for weapons purchases, and their smaller national budgets, most of these countries will be forced to be selective in their military purchases.

    Within the region, Brazil and Venezuela continue to dominate as the leading recipients of arms agreements, ranking 4th and 6th in the developing world, respectively, for the period of 2008-2011. This demonstrates a significant change from the previous four years, particularly with Brazil, which did not rank within the top ten from 2004-2007.

    In terms of actual deliveries, however, Venezuela is the only Latin American country in the top ten list, ranking eighth with the value of deliveries from 2008 to 2011 totaling $4 billion. When 2011 is pulled out of the four year time frame, Venezuela moves up to fifth place ($1.7 billion in total delivery value), after Saudi Arabia ($2.8 billion), India ($2.7 billion), Pakistan ($1.8 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($1.7 billion), even though it did not appear in the top ten list for total value of arms transfer agreements made in 2011.

    From 2008-2011, France surpassed Russia in the total value of arms transfer agreements signed with Latin American countries. In this time period, 34.69% of the total value of agreements with Latin American countries were signed with France, 31.46% with Russia, and 10.45% with the United States. France's jump to first place indicates a significant increase in the value of their agreements with Latin America, from $500 million between 2004-2007 to $8.6 billion between 2008-2011, more than 17 times the previous four years. (By comparison, Russia's agreements with Latin America totaled $7.8 billion and the United States' agreements totaled $2.59 billion). One more way of looking at it - 49.71% of all arms transfer agreements made by France with countries in the developing world between 2008-2011 were with Latin American countries.

    The CRS report distinguishes between arms transfer agreements made and actual deliveries. As indicated above, the report shows France as the supplier entering into the highest total value of agreements with countries in Latin America. However, when looking at actual deliveries of arms, Russia maintains the number one spot, $3.1 billion in total arms deliveries from 2008-2011, while France only delivered $500 million during the same time period ($8.1 billion less than the total value of agreements made). The authors of the report indicate that Venezuela is Russia's principal focus in the region. According to the report's authors, "With the strong support of its President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has become Russia's major new arms client in this region."

    Perhaps the most striking fact outlined by the CRS was the shift in the categories of weapons delivered between the two time periods. From 2004-2007, tanks and self-propelled guns lead with 140 units being supplied primarily by Major Western Nations (120). During the period of 2008-2011, we see both a change in major supplier and category. While tanks and self-propelled guns retained its importance, surface to air missiles topped the rankings at 3,120 units delivered, (3,070 from Russia), up from 0 in the previous four years. APCs and armored cars also saw a noted increase in deliveries (80 to 509).

    The report's authors do make note that care must be taken when looking at the numbers and categories of weapons delivered. According to the authors, while the data on actual transfers of military equipment is useful in showing "relative trends in the delivery of important classes of military equipment and indicate who the leading suppliers are from region to region over time," it is limited as it does not give "detailed information regarding either sophistication or the specific name of the equipment delivered." Nor does the data "provide an indication of the relative capabilities of the recipient nations to use effectively the weapons delivered to them."

    This blog was written by Abigail Poe and Aapta Garg.

    Friday, June 10, 2011

    Week in Review - New reports edition

    • The Department of State released its portion of the Section 655 Annual Military Assistance Report for Fiscal Year 2010. This report, as required by Section 655 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, covers defense articles and defense services licensed for permanent export under the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) program. The State Department's DCS program, which regulates private U.S. companies' overseas sales of weapons and other defense articles, defense services and military training, is not to be confused with the Defense Department's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, which manages government-to-government sales.

      While we were happy to see the report released relatively close to its February due date, we were surprised to see that the level of detail of reporting has decreased significantly. Previous reports aggregated the data by U.S. Munitions List (USML) sub-category, but the FY2010 report only provides the quantity and value for the USML category and does not provide additional detail about the types of firearms, submersible vessels, vessels of war, tanks, and more licensed for export. You can see the previous level of detail provided on the Just the Facts database (the linked example is for Colombia, but you can see the details for other countries by clicking on a country name or dollar amount on this table). We'll be uploading the new FY2010 numbers to the Direct Commercial Sales database soon, but so far, it appears that the total value of exports licenses issued to the entire region in 2010 decreased by a little over $500 million, from $1.697 billion in 2009 to $1.029 billion in 2010.

    • The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs' Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight released a report (PDF) that examines State Department and Defense Department spending on contracts to supply counternarcotics assistance to governments in Latin America from 2005 to 2009. CIP Intern Claire O'Neill McCleskey summarized the report’s findings on the Just the Facts blog. The report critiques the lack of transparency, inadequate oversight, and monopolization by large contractors.
    • The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a high-level commission that includes former heads of state and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, released a report last week in which they declared the war on drugs a failure. The study urges "experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs," adding: "This recommendation applies especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalization and legal regulation."
    • The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its 2011 Yearbook, which includes a chapter on military expenditures. According to the new report, military spending worldwide grew most rapidly in South America, by 5.8%, compared to the global rise in military expenditure of 1.3%. As Adam Isacson notes in his blog highlighting interesting aspects of the report, “the US$63.3 billion spent by South America is slightly above that spent by France alone, and represents only 4% of the total global expenditure.” Click here to download the most recent Just the Facts podcast, in which Adam Isacson and Lucila Santos talk to Carina Solmirano, co-author of the Yearbook’s chapter on global military spending.
    • The Washington Office on Latin America released a new report yesterday. "Tackling Urban Violence in Latin America: Reversing Exclusion through Smart Policing and Social Investment" examines the relative effectiveness of reducing urban violence in four different Latin American cities: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Medillín, Colombia; Ciudad Juárez, Mexico; and Santa Tecla, El Salvador. The report, which can be downloaded as a PDF here, finds that:
      • The mano dura (iron first) anti-crime approaches that have been employed by many governments in the region don’t work.
      • Policymakers must take into account that social, political, and economic exclusion are the context in which crime and violence take root.
      • Citizens whose daily lives are most affected by violence must be involved in designing and implementing solutions for their communities.
    • The Center for International Policy’s TransBorder Project released a new report last week. “Policy on the Edge: Failures of Border Security and New Directions for Border Control” examines the failures, waste and misdirection of the border security operations of the Department of Homeland Security. The report recommends “that charts the way forward through regulatory solutions--for immigration, drugs, gun sales, border management--that are more pragmatic, effective and cost-efficient than current policies.” Download the report as a PDF.