types and estimate the quantities o weapons that Latin American countries import. According to data providedby the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transers, in2005 Latin America legally imported at least $175 mil-lion worth o small arms and light weapons, as well asammunition and spare parts. The United States was themain supplier to the region, exporting almost $50 millionworth o these weapons. Other major suppliers to Latin America that year included Belgium, the Czech Republic,Germany, Israel, Italy, Russia, South Arica, and Spain.The same 2005 data reveals that the vast majorityo the $29 million worth o U.S. small arms owing toSouth America went to Colombia. Mexico imported $10million worth, almost as much as all the small arms thatCentral America and the Caribbean imported combined.
Venezuela, meanwhile, spent $10 million on small armsand other weapons and supplies rom Belgium. Venezuelaalso made a controversial purchase o 100,000 AK-47sworth about $4 million rom Russia that year, in a dealthat included co-production rights.Traditionally, Latin American countries have not pro-duced enough weapons to meet their domestic militaryneeds and have relied on imports to fll their arsenals. While almost every country in Latin America manuac-tures small arms to some extent, production capabilitiesvary greatly throughout the region.
In 2005, Brazil, Mex-ico, Argentina, and Chile were the largest regional pro-ducers o small arms, and also the our largest regionalexporters, transerring $15.5 million, $3.6 million, $3.2million, and $657,000 worth o weapons, respectively,to other Latin American countries.
Still, Latin Ameri-can small-arms production is relatively small in scope. According to the Small Arms Survey, only about 4% o the small-arms-producing companies in the world are lo-cated in South America, on par with sub-Saharan Aricaand the Middle East.
However, in August, 2007, Russia’sIzhevsk Manuacturing Plant announced it had fnalizedthe deal to build two actories in Venezuela to produce AK-103 assault ries and their 7.62 mm ammunition.Construction on the actories began at the end o 2007and is scheduled to be completed by 2010. The U.S. andColombian governments have complained that the Ven-ezuelan military’s stockpiles o 7.62 mm FN FAL ries,which the new AK-103s will replace, might be divertedto Colombian guerrillas.
On top o these ofcially approved arms transers, theillicit small arms trade in Latin America is thriving. Theregion is a smuggler’s paradise: A vast coastline, denselyorested mountains, porous borders, clandestine airstrips,widespread government corruption, a lack governmen-tal resources and political will to conront the trade, andentrenched and powerul narco-trafckers—all havecontributed to the unregulated ow o weapons, drugs,and people. The triborder area o Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina has become a particularly lucrative cross-bordersmuggling region. Smuggled goods in this area, includingweapons and narcotics, are valued between $2 billion and$3 billion annually.
Hezbollah runs much o the area’ssmuggling activities, using profts to support activities inthe western hemisphere and the Middle East.
But the region’s largest and most sophisticated black-market arms-trafcking network serves the ongoingarmed conict in Colombia, which has ueled an inormalarms race between paramilitaries, guerrillas, and privatecitizens. Anecdotal evidence suggests that large quanti-ties o small arms, bound or Colombian guerrillas andparamilitaries alike, arrive in Central America via searoutes and are then routed through Panama, which actsas the largest single transit hub or Colombia’s weapons.Researchers have identifed 37 trafcking routes romPanama into Colombia, 26 rom Ecuador, 21 rom Ven-ezuela, and 14 rom Brazil, according to a RAND study.
The U.S.-Mexican border is also a central routethrough which illicit small arms enter Latin America. A study released by the Mexican government suggeststhat as many as 2,000 guns are crossing the U.S.-Mexicoborder daily. As in Colombia, these guns are uelling anarms race, in this case between Mexican drug cartels,costing the lives o 4,000 people in 18 months.
Weap-ons, including assault ries like AK-47s, AR-15s, andM-16s, etch up to three times their U.S. market value inMexico, assuring a continued southward ow o weap-ons. (See “Guns: The U.S. Threat to Mexican NationalSecurity,” page 21.)In addition to international smuggling, the diversiono domestic production and privately owned stocks con-tributes to illicit ownership in Latin America. Domesticproduction is most important in Brazil; about 80% o the illegal guns in Rio de Janeiro are made domestically,according to the Small Arms Survey, and police recordsindicate that between April 1999 and June 2005, 72%o illegal frearms seized by Brazilian police were domesti-cally made.
The majority o these frearms were legallyproduced and sold, and then diverted to illicit marketsthrough sale, trade, or thet.Crat production—crude, small-scale, handmade pro-duction o weapons—has been documented in Chile,Brazil, Colombia, Honduras, and El Salvador, and also u-els the illicit trade. In Chile, or example, crat productionis economically insignifcant but used to provide weap-