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

“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.