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Argentina Traffickers Buying US Arms for Sale to Brazil Gangs

Ar-15 (Photo: Pexels)
Ar-15 (Photo: Pexels)

The rifle parts cost about $1,500. The assembled firearms sold for as much as $12,000 in Paraguay and $20,000 in Brazil.

(By Josefina Salomón, InSight Crime) Arms traffickers in Argentina bought US AR-15 rifle parts, assembled the firearms, and then transported the arsenal in a military-style truck. The intended buyers of the high-powered weapons were powerful prison gangs in neighboring Brazil and Paraguay, in a case that shows how easily arms move in the lawless Tri-Border region.

A report by an Argentine judge has revealed the existence of the arms trafficking network several months after authorities seized more than 600 firearms, including hundreds of AR-15 rifles, in 11 locations in the province of Buenos Aires and across the country.

Argentine Security Minister Patricia Bullrich said after the operation that the rifle parts had been purchased in Miami, and then sent via postal service to Argentina. Each package held sufficient parts for as many as five AR-15 rifles.

The semi-automatic weapons were then assembled, modified, and even tested prior to being packed for sale to crime groups in Brazil and Paraguay. The arms were transported to the neighboring countries in a silver Kia truck outfitted with army insignias that likely had been bought in a military auction.

The rifle parts cost about $1,500. The assembled firearms sold for as much as $12,000 in Paraguay and $20,000 in Brazil.

The operation, labeled “Clandestine Arsenal” (Arsenal Clandestino) was carried out in November after government officials in the United States alerted Argentina of suspicious packages traveling from Miami to Buenos Aires.

After substituting the real rifle parts with fakes, authorities in Argentina tracked one of the packages to where the arms were being assembled.

A number of arrests have been made since, including of members of the postal service, accused of colluding with crime groups.

InSight Crime Analysis

The dismantling of the illegal arms network, which operated out of Argentina and sold weapons to criminal groups in neighboring Brazil and Paraguay, shows how the Tri-Border region thrives as a criminal hub.

When presenting the results of the operation, Minister Bullrich was quick to suggest that Brazil’s Red Command (Comando Vermelho – CV), a prison gang, was the main buyer of the arms. Even though authorities have yet to confirm this, what is clear is that both the Red Command and its gang rival, the First Capital Command (Primeiro Comando da Capital – PCC) are strengthening and expanding in the region.

The PCC has been particularly visible in Paraguay, and to a lesser extent in Argentina, in recent years.

The trafficking network was clearly prepared to move a lot of weaponry, and one of the group’s members was even an expert in modifying firearms, according to La Nación. AR-15 rifles can be altered in a way that allows them to shoot bursts of ammunition, similar to the military grade M4 rifle, which is the weapon of choice for Rio de Janeiro’s mafias.

Authorities in Argentina were quick to celebrate the success of “Clandestine Arsenal,” the largest operation they have carried out against arms trafficking organizations in recent years. The operation is also the latest example of successful cooperation between authorities in Argentina and the United States, which increasingly seem to be sharing intelligence and strategies to combat organized crime groups.

Ironically, however, the United States’ lax gun laws and Argentina’s weak border and customs controls were what made illegal arms trade possible.


This article is republished from InSight Crime under a Creative Commons license.

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2 Comments

  1. Kurt April 13, 2019

    What is legal or what isn’t gets blurred these days. The us government is all about stopping illegal arms deals between citizens, but what about the hundreds of billions of dollars in arms sales to Saudi Arabia that are used to commit GENOCIDE in Yemen. Why is this ok?
    Why is it okay for the US to kill 3000 of its own citizens in the twin towers as a excuse to commit genocide in the middle East?
    The US government spends trillions on weapons for its illegal wars declared for phoney reasons. Yet it wants its people at home to be defenceless. WHY?
    Why is it that the 5 biggest arms dealers on the planet are also on the UN security council?
    Rome operated the same way as the US.
    First there is the defense agreement, and they build forts and Garrison troops. Then they disarm their victim, and install their puppet ruler.
    The United States of America is not about freedom. Its all about oppression. Don’t expect its chicken citizens to change it. They are so terrified that they don’t even want to know what’s going on.

    Reply
  2. Lauren von Bernuth April 15, 2019

    It’s legal when a country or mega-corporation can make a profit off of it, everything else is illegal. ha

    Reply

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