Adam Isacson

Defense, security, borders, migration, and human rights in Latin America and the United States. May not reflect my employer’s consensus view.


Arms Transfers

Arms Transfers in the Americas: Some Links from the Past Month


Visiting Brazil, French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted binational cooperation on submarines, which began in 2008. Brazil has used French technical assistance to build three of four planned diesel attack subs. While Brazil is cooperating with France’s Naval Group corporation on a Brazilian-built nuclear submarine, France is reluctant to transfer the most advanced technologies.


The U.S. government delivered to Ecuador a C-130H cargo aircraft and a mobile police barracks. The latter is a series of shipping containers converted into sleeping areas, food service, and other facilities for police operating along Ecuador’s border with Colombia. According to U.S. Ambassador Michael Fitzpatrick, the cargo plane, built in 1974 and part of Afghanistan’s Air Force between 1988 and 2021, is valued at $12 million.

At the aircraft handover event, Amb. Fitzpatrick also “highlighted an investment of US$10 million to rehabilitate the FAE’s fleet of Super Tucanos [Brazilian-made attack aircraft] and the delivery of night vision tools and weapons for the Ecuadorian military,” according to the Ecuadorian daily Primicias.

Faced with a possible Russian embargo on Ecuadorian bananas, the government in Quito abandoned a plan to send used “junk” Russian-made equipment to the United States in exchange for a shipment of U.S.-made items. The plan apparently had been to hand over Ecuador’s Russian-made equipment to the government of Ukraine.


Bolivia’s minister of government announced that the European Union (EU) had provided 20 million Bolivianos’ (about US$2.9 million) worth of “weapons, equipment, clothing, and reconditioned aircraft” to the Bolivian police force’s Special Force for the Fight against Drug Trafficking (FELCN). An EU communiqué sought to clarify, however, that its counter-drug aid to Bolivia “includes or can be used for the purchase of armaments.” The Ministry of Government, in response, specified that the aid included “night vision devices and portable equipment for the identification of controlled substances.”


Chile’s national police force (Carabineros) took delivery of four Hunter TR-12 armored vehicles built in Colombia by Armor International.

In protest of Israel’s human rights abuses in Gaza, Chile’s government banned Israeli companies from its annual International Air and Space Fair (FIDAE), one of Latin America’s largest air shows.


For the same reason, Colombia’s government has suspended all military trade with Israel. Major Israeli defense items in Colombia’s arsenal include the Atmos artillery system, the Barax air defense system, about 300,000 Galil rifles, and some aging Kfir fighter jets.

Colombia is discussing with the United States a possible purchase of F-16 fighter planes, which cost roughly US$160 million apiece, to replace the Kfirs.

Colombia is also discussing with the United States a possible purchase of more UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. That helicopter model was a central item in the United States’ “Plan Colombia” arms transfers of the 2000s; combining grants and purchases, Colombia has the world’s sixth-largest Black Hawk fleet.


The U.S. State Department blocked the export of all U.S.-originated defense articles to Nicaragua’s authoritarian government. While the United States has not been transferring such articles to Nicaragua, the measure seeks to stop third countries from transferring to Nicaragua any items with U.S.-made components.


Venezuela obtained a “Hunter SHH100” anti-drone system from Skyfend, a Chinese company.

Some of the F-16 jets that Venezuela purchased from the United States in the years before Hugo Chávez’s 1998 election are still operable. Three of them took part in an early March military exercise.


“Uruguay is negotiating the purchase of weapons, radars, and military trucks with the United States,” noted Southern Command’s Diálogo website.


In late 2023, Honduras purchased 10 South African-built “Black Mamba” armored police vehicles and has already begun using the two that have been delivered on operations in urban neighborhoods.


Peru has almost completed a $25.5 million overhaul of four Russian-made Mi-8MTV-1 Hip H transport helicopters belonging to its army. reported that Peru has renovated more than 15 Russian helicopters in its arsenal in the past 5 years; many of them sustained bullet impacts on operations in the VRAEM region, where Shining Path remnants continue to operate.

Much of Peru’s army equipment is Russian-made, the result of a changeover made when Peru was ruled by a left-leaning military dictatorship that came to power in 1968.

U.S. Military and Police Equipment Arriving in Ecuador

Source: @USembassyEC on Twitter.

Ecuador took delivery of two big U.S. military and police aid items this week. The U.S. government’s security assistance program has been ramping up following a January 9 outbreak of organized-crime violence around the country and subsequent state-of-emergency declaration from President Daniel Noboa.

  • A “mobile police barracks” for use along Ecuador’s side of its border with Colombia, consisting of eight converted storage containers, a sewage tank, and an electric power plant. “An estimated 80 police officers trained for border control tasks, from the Unit for the Fight against Organized Crime (ULCO), will patrol nearby roads and border zones, then spend nights and eat in the containers, which have a kitchen, dining room, dormitories, and meeting areas, among other spaces,” reported El Universo.
  • A C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft that the U.S. government had originally scheduled for a 2026 handover to Ecuador, but reprioritized in light of the security situation. The plane, valued at over $12 million, was built in 1974. In 1988, the U.S. government gave it to Afghanistan’s Air Force; following the 2021 Taliban takeover in Kabul, the U.S. Air Force reconditioned and modernized the plane.

Ecuador is now almost certainly the number-two recipient of U.S. security assistance in the Western Hemisphere after Colombia, surpassing Mexico.

Arms Transfers in the Americas: Some Links from the Past Month

Ecuador has been in a diplomatic dispute with Russia over a reported deal to send used Russian-made military equipment to the United States, in exchange for a U.S. government transfer of U.S. equipment worth $200 million. U.S. State Department official Kevin Sullivan told an Ecuadorian television interviewer that the used Russian equipment was to be transferred to Ukraine. The government of President Daniel Noboa may be backing down from the deal after Russia suspended five Ecuadorian banana exporting companies.

Beyond the possible Russian equipment exchange, U.S. aid to Ecuador announced in the past month includes:

  • construction of a new Ecuadorian Coast Guard Academy,
  • renovation of a canine veterinary clinic,
  • a renovated office for the corruption prosecution unit,
  • eight mobile border units to support an elite border task force
  • a joint National Police-Coast Guard operational unit in Guayaquil
  • digital forensics support to identify, map, and target criminal networks
  • a team to train 175 Ecuador migration officers on the use of biometrics collection
  • training of 35 members from the Ecuadorian Presidential and Vice-Presidential protective details
  • an increase in FBI advisors in-country
  • a C-130H military plane to be delivered by the end of March
  • more than 20,000 bullet proof vests
  • more than $1 million worth of critical security and emergency response equipment
  • $13 million in equipment to protect the Ecuadorian Ministry of Defense computer networks
  • $2.4 million in additional vehicles and security equipment for Ecuador’s police
  • 6 Navistar Defense 7000-MV trucks

Peru is completing an approximately US$50 million overhaul of eight Russian-built helicopters used by its army and air force and first acquired in the 1990s.

Peru‘s $27 million purchase of 10,000 Israeli Arad 7 rifles has come under scrutiny from the government’s comptroller because “a guarantee of only two years has been given, when the technical requirements demand 12 years,” La República reported.

In the waning days of Alejandro Giammattei’s administration in Guatemala, on December 12, 2023, the country’s air force received a Bell 429 GlobalRanger helicopter purchased from the U.S. government. Guatemala and the United States are discussing the purchase of two Bell 407 helicopters.

The U.S. government is donating 14 Osprea Mamba MK7 vehicles to Uruguay, which is also purchasing some additional vehicles. The announcement follows a visit to the country from U.S. Southern Command Commander Gen. Laura Richardson.

U.S. officials said that transfers to Guyana, which faces a territorial claim from Venezuela, will include aircraft, helicopters, a fleet of drones, and radar technology.

Arms Transfers in the Americas: Some Links from the Past Month

Ecuador President Daniel Noboa said that his government will turn over used Russian and Ukrainian military equipment to the United States, and receive about $200 million in U.S. equipment in return.

Video from recent military exercises showed that Venezuela possesses Iranian-made Zolfaghar naval patrol boats. “Aside from the Zolfaghar boats, Iran has also provided Venezuela with drones, rockets and missiles,” France24 noted in a report listing some of the models.

“We did not manage to finalize a deal, neither with the French nor with the Swedes” by the end of the year to purchase fighter jets to replace an aging fleet of 12 Israeli-made Kfir planes, said Colombia‘s defense minister, Iván Velásquez. In a long-planned purchase that will total well into the billions of dollars, Colombia is choosing between Sweden’s Saab Gripen, France’s Dassault Rafale, and the United States’ Lockheed Martin F-16.

Peru‘s armed forces placed a $664,000 order for 540 South Korean-made anti-riot grenade launchers. “The acquisition seeks to provide the Armed Forces with anti-riot material for the National Police Support Operations in case of possible demonstrations in Lima and nationwide,” reported

The right-leaning Bolivian daily El Deber reported that Bolivia‘s left-of-center government has purchased over $31 million in crowd control or anti-riot equipment for its police in the past year. The Interior Ministry stated, “The equipment delivered should not be understood as a synonym of confrontation, much less as a preparation for a ‘war’, this type of assertions are not consistent with reality.”

“The highest degree of irresponsibility”

“Buying planes in the midst of a crisis like the one we’re experiencing is the highest degree of irresponsibility for a leader,” candidate Gustavo Petro said in 2021.

Now, in a reversal, President Petro will purchase 16 fighter jets, choosing between the U.S. F-16, Sweden’s Gripen, and France’s Rafale.

Each will cost dozens of millions of dollars. Colombia has few threat scenarios for which fighter jets would be of use.

What will get cut to pay for this? Peace accord implementation?

Quite a spending spree…

…by the populist president of El Salvador, which is one of the world’s governments most likely to default on its debt by early next year.

Arms transfers in Latin America: some notable links from the past quarter

August 31, 2021

El Salvador

El Comando Sumpul está a cargo de vigilar 195 puestos de Paso Fronterizo No Habilitado (PFNH) situados a lo largo del país

August 26, 2021


EN 2006 el gobierno venezolano, a través de la Compañía Anónima Venezolana de Industrias Militares (CAVIM), suscribió con Rosoboronexport los contratos para la construcción de una planta de fabricación de armamento

August 25, 2021

El Salvador

U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) delivered a Metal Shark Defiant 85 coastal patrol vessel to the Salvadoran Navy (FNES, in Spanish) at La Unión Naval Base, on July 22, 2021


Se vienen ejecutando desde 2006 en las instalaciones de la Compañía Anónima Venezolana de Industrias Militares

July 28, 2021

El Salvador, Honduras

Tanto Honduras como El Salvador necesitarían al menos uno, y óptimamente, dos Desafiante 85 adicionales y, en el caso de El Salvador, uno o dos más modelos FCS-5009/Spa-5009 para mejorar sus patrullas

July 22, 2021

El Salvador

A esta fase se le denomina “Incursión” y pretende duplicar la capacidad humana, alcanzando los 40.000 efectivos militares en los próximos cinco años

June 21, 2021


Warships have “practically absolute sovereign immunity”, says Cornell Overfield of cna, a think-tank, meaning that the United States cannot lawfully seize or attack them

June 18, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Many Russian C-UAS systems are small and portable, and are relatively inexpensive, enabling their potential export to LATAM

June 3, 2021


El Instituto Naval de EEUU informó este martes 2 de junio que un barco de guerra perteneciente a la Armada de Irán salió de su puerto a finales de abril con siete de barcos de alta velocidad con armamento antiaéreo

June 2, 2021

Western Hemisphere Regional

Analizamos en estas páginas los próximos programas de aeronaves de ala rotatoria en esta variopinta región


Entre 2017 y 2021, 20 entidades estatales suscribieron al menos 30 contratos y dos órdenes de compra por $45.684.261.058 para adquirir armas de letalidad reducida y elementos de dispersión de multitudes

Arms transfers and arms trafficking in Latin America: Links from the past month

Brazil, Uruguay

  • Andrea Barretto, Brazil Donates 25 Armored Tanks to the Uruguayan Army (Revista Dialogo (U.S. Southern Command), November 13, 2018).

    The M-41C vehicles that the Brazilian Army used through 2009 will be part of the Uruguayan Army’s 13th Armored Infantry Battalion Brazil purchased the M-41 armored vehicles from the United States in the 1960s. EB used the vehicles equipped with cannons for almost five decades for training purposes

Colombia, Western Hemisphere Regional


Arms transfers in Latin America: Links from the past month

Western Hemisphere Regional


  • Former Argentine President Acquitted of Arms Smuggling (Associated Press, The New York Times, October 4, 2018).

    “The same judicial branch that processed the case for 22 years without a firm sentence, now declares Menem innocent because too much time has passed”




  • Elízabeth Romero, Regimen Busca Aumentar la Capacidad de Armamento de la Policia Orteguista (La Prensa (Nicaragua), September 27, 2018).

    Jaentschke alega en la entrevista a EFE que “nuestra policía, que era una policía muy tranquila y que caminaba en las calles sin mucho armamento, tiene que ajustarse a los embates del crimen organizado que se han mostrado en estas protestas”

Arms transfers in Latin America: Links from the past month

Had I not been traveling last week, I’d have published links from the previous month about arms transfers and arms trafficking in Latin America. As it turns out, though, I only had these two in the database:


The vessels will support maritime patrol efforts in the Pacific and Caribbean to counter transnational crime. Colombia expects two more boats by the end of 2018


As drug-fueled violence reaches unprecedented levels in Tijuana, the city’s top safety official calls for automatic detention of anyone caught with weapons—drawing criticism from advocates of Mexico’s new criminal justice system

Links from the past month about: arms transfers in Latin America

Oswaldo Rivas / Reuters photo in The Washington Post. Caption: “A soldier washes a Russian T-55 tank during a military parade commemorating the 35th anniversary of the founding of the Nicaraguan army at Juan Pablo II Square in Managua in 2014.”


“Russia has delivered a batch of shoulder-fired Igla-S air defense missile systems to Brazil and has planned on sending Panstir–1 air defense and artillery systems.”

Brazil’s army has a 25-year plan to buy 1,580 armored combat vehicles, which it employs whenever it is called to assist in the re-taking or “pacifying” of a favela. It began with a $2 billion contract with Iveco, a domestic defense contractor.

After seizing a record 371 assault weapons and rifles in 2016, and 2,615 over the past 10 years, Rio de Janeiro’s police have established a Specialized Weapons, Ammunition and Explosives unit. It will investigate the arms trafficking networks that are putting so many guns into organized crime’s hands.


As the FARC guerrillas’ membership concentrates in disarmament zones around the country, the peace accord does not require the UN mission to record the guerrillas’ weapons’ serial numbers before it destroys them. This will make their origins impossible to trace, complicating any future investigation into global arms-trafficking networks. An infographic in this article shows the nations of origin of the weapons turned in by pro-government paramilitary groups 10 years ago: most were made in the United States, Russia, Bulgaria, or North Korea.


While mostly about Russian intelligence presence in Nicaragua, this piece does discuss Russia’s donations of T–72 tanks to Daniel Ortega’s regime in Nicaragua.

5 links from the past month about: arms transfers in Latin America

Stryker combat vehicle

A Stryker Combat Vehicle like the ones Peru may or may not be buying from the U.S. government, depending on whom you ask. (Source: Wikipedia)

March 10, 2017

Colombia, Honduras

Honduras: Buque de la Naval Ya se Construye en Astillero en Aguas de Colombia (El Heraldo (Honduras), March 10, 2017).

COTECMAR, an entity of Colombia’s Defense Ministry that builds naval vessels, is building one that Honduras is to buy for US$13 million.

March 8, 2017


Mindef No Adquirira por el Momento Vehiculos Militares (El Comercio (Peru), March 8, 2017).

Peru’s government is denying that President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, during a recent visit to Washington, asked Donald Trump to authorize a purchase of Stryker combat vehicles. I find this denial strange, because the U.S. Defense Department already announced a US$668 million sale of Strykers to Peru on December 5.

March 3, 2017


Sarah Kinosian, Eugenio Weigend, We’re Sending Guns, Crime to Mexico (Washington Office on Latin America, Center for American Progress, The Los Angeles Times, March 3, 2017).

Featuring Sarah Kinosian from WOLA’s own Defense Oversight Program! “Many factors have contributed to violence in Mexico. The river of iron from the United States, however, plays a key role in the country’s high death toll.”

March 2, 2017

Western Hemisphere Regional

Colby Goodman, Commerce Department Boosts Arms Sales Deliveries to Record High (LobeLog, March 2, 2017).

Moving some categories of arms sales from State Department to Commerce Department jurisdiction can have big repercussions. Like U.S. companies suddenly being able to export $458,654 worth of military electronics to Venezuela (!) in 2015.

February 22, 2017


A Bread Basket for Weapons: Trump Ally Selling Weapons to Mexico (American Friends Service Committee, February 22, 2017).

John Lindsay-Poland and Mexican colleagues investigate a huge sale from a U.S. gunmaker that gave US$100,000 to the Trump campaign. “In March 2015, SEDENA made an agreement, valid for four years, with the U.S. company Sig Sauer to acquire up to $265 million in pistols, assault rifles, and other firearms.”

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.