Research Paper: Illicit Arms Trade in South and Central

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¶ … illicit arms trade in South and Central America and how that affects U.S. Foreign Policy regionally and globally. In Central and South America, the drug trade and the arms trade are completely linked. The problems of drug trafficking and the illicit arms trade are phenomena that are essentially related. It is practically impossible to deal with each issue separately.

As illicit trades, they account for the largest sectors of the black market.

They generally use the same routes, although arms production and the demand for illicit drugs are found in the industrialized countries like the U.S., whereas illicit drugs production and the demand for weapons are found in the so-called developing world such as in Central and South America. The war in Columbia between Marxist rebels and the Columbian government is at the epicenter of this trade and draws the U.S. almost inevitably deeper into conflict there. Without a coordinated response from all of the countries in the region, there will be little likelihood of resolving the problem any time soon and bringing the conflict to a peaceful end.

Analysis-Columbian Case Study

Columbia is the epicenter of the illegal Latin American arms trade and consideration of it is central to any investigation. An example of this will begin to tell the story. In 2002, West African gun smugglers

persuaded the Nicaraguan government to sell them some 3,000 assault rifles and 2.5 million rounds of ammunition by pretending to be brokering the deal on behalf of the Panamanian National Police. Instead, the illegal in addition, rebel groups and terrorist organizations that take advantage of these illegal networks often use the profits from these commodities to purchase weapons and fund their operations. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)

earns approximately $500 million through its drug operations, much of which is in turn spent on weapons. Between 1995 and 2001, Colombia's military seized more than 15,000 small arms that were circulating in its black market, along with 2.5 million rounds of ammunition

(ibid).

Colombia serves as a point of reference for various reasons. Although geographically it is not situated in Central America, the influence and proximity of this region cause the nation of Columbia to share the problems mentioned above.

Colombia has been active at the international level on issues relating to illicit arms trafficking and the drugs problem. With the end of the cold war, countless weapons and munitions, brought to Central America over the past ten years, are now part of a huge black market in Nicaragua, El Salvador and Panama which has been infiltrated by Colombian guerrillas. It is evident that the so-called drugs industry is much more complex than has been described here and that the illicit drugs trade has infiltrated local economies

(Camacho).

Much of the control of weapons to the FARC (Columbian rebels) depends upon cooperation between Venezuela and Columbia. The future of illegal arms flows to anti-Colombian FARC rebels is in the balance after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and newly elected Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos met to patch up their differences. The FARC has ties to the narcotics trafficking activities, including taxation, cultivation and distribution and cooperation between the two countries is the key to controlling the illegal arms trade to the rebels. "We have had a frank, direct, sincere dialogue like in all good relations," Santos said. "We have taken a huge step forward in restoring confidence," he added, after Venezuela apparently agreed to pay about $800 million owed to Colombian exporters and blocked while the political disputes festered. "I came here to turn over the page," Chavez said. If this is the case, then there is hope that the illegal flow of arms to the FARC can be stopped to aid in stopping the war of rebellion in Columbia ("Flare").

U.S. Stalling on Ratification of Regional Arms Control Treaty-CIFTA

The OAS Firearms Convention was signed in 1997 (also known by its Spanish initials as CIFTA),

but the U.S. has not ratified it. It was designed to end the illicit manufacture and trafficking of guns, ammunition, explosives, and related materials. It requires that ratifying nations create laws (if they do not already exist) that establish procedures for importing, exporting, and tracing small arms, light weapons, and ammunition, and as well as mechanisms for enforcement.

Senate stalling by Senator Jesse Helms and other senators made sure that the treaty was never signed and given over to the president for his signature (Stohl, and Tuttle).

Latin American Nations Call for Regional Arms Control for Small Arms

At the close of the 2011 Ibero-American Summit, the member countries issued a separate and special declaration defining public security as a precondition for economic and social progress and calling for international cooperation, technical assistance and legislation to combat the illicit trafficking of weapons. The ability of the Latin American countries to control the availability of firearms certainly depends on international cooperation. But controlling this market is a tall order for any country or region. The illicit global market for small arms and light weapons (SALW) is estimated to be worth approximately $1 billion dollars annually. A proposed global Arms Trade Agreement will be debated in the UN next year. And while it will not eliminate the illicit trade in guns, it can reduce the availability of military-grade weapons on the shadowy gray market and clarify the fuzzy boundaries between licit and illicit trade in weapons responsible for hundreds of thousands violent deaths. It may also give Latin American and Caribbean governments a template for further regional and domestic action on this issue. (Cullinan). Traffic in light weapons and small arms is one of Latin America's major disarmament concerns, because they fuel urban violence, especially in countries like Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil (Godoy).

Implications

The proliferation and illicit use of small arms and light weapons threatens the realization of basic human rights, inhibits developmental progress and humanitarian efforts and increases human insecurity.

Hapless civilians fall victim to small arms and light weapons in wars, coups d'etats,

So why do the people in Latin American nations themselves do so little to control the trade?

In Brazil, a country with one of the highest small arms and light weapons mortality rates worldwide and Latin America's main small arms and light weapons producer, 64

percent voted against Article 35 of the National Disarmament Statute in the 23 October 2005

National Referendum, which would have prohibited the sale of small arms and light weapons5

and given Brazil one of the most restrictive gun laws in the world. Brazil's Janus-faced stand towards small arms and light weapons is not uncommon in Latin American and Caribbean

countries, many of which are at the forefront of international advocacy efforts, while lagging behind in the implementation of their self-imposed control measures (ibid.).

Central America-Factors

There are factors that favor the traffic:

the weakness of State institutions and a chronic corruption in them, especially in bordering zones. The first one not only means the inability of the State to face the insecurity problem, because of lack of resources, but that linked groups can co-opt the institutions and stop the decision making process. Corruption becomes one of the main problems in the Latin American states and facilitates different kinds of traffic, as people in charge of border controls protect traffickers or make it possible for illegal traffic activities become legal ones, covering the nature of importations.

An additional factor is poverty in the passing zones or borders. In the past few years, the participation of whole communities in activities to support drug traffickers whether storing, collecting information or keeping silent on what is going on in their communities has become a problem of important proportions. For some communities, it has meant to find a way out of their problems, as they experience an economic growth, which is shown in the building of their houses that does not correspond to the economic activities of the zone. The circulation of arms is evident and there is a silent complicity because traffic supporters are members of the community ("Iepades.org").

In practice, traffickers become the core of the region's economy and they use this structure as support for their operations.

One of the most important characteristics of the Central American territory is the coexistence of seven countries in an area of

523 thousand square kilometers, apart from the sea borders.

Authorities agree in the fact that the illicit traffic of fire arms takes advantage of these weaknesses in the bordering zones and blind points along the borders. Security forces do not cover the boundaries because they lack resources and personnel and, frequently, there is corruption. Although the region's armed conflicts finished in the 90's, new violence scenarios are being generated. Organized crime, disparity, and the lack of public policies to face exclusion and poverty act as triggers of social conflicts.

The research shows that the Central American territory is a strategic passing point for the illicit traffic of fire arms. Different illegal groups from the region as well as from other… [END OF PREVIEW]

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