Arms seized in the Asuncion raid

A raid on a weapons "supermarket" in Paraguay has led officials to offer details of the inner workings of the country's arms trade, depicting a familiar mix of corruption, stolen military arms, and guns legally bought in the United States.

On March 9, security forces discovered an arsenal of high powered weaponry in a raid on a house in Paraguay's capital city of Asunción, which included machine guns, assault rifles, and armour piercing weapons, reported ABC. So far, three people have been arrested in the investigation.

Following the raid, the head of Paraguay's anti-narcotics forces, which participated in the operation, revealed the principal sources of blackmarket weapons in Paraguay, reported Hoy. According to Luis Rojas, most of the illegal arms used by criminals originate in Bolivia, Argentina and the United States. 

Arms from Bolivia and Argentina are generally stolen from the police and the military and then trafficked into Paraguay, said Rojas. Guns from the United States, meanwhile, are bought legally then broken down into parts and smuggled into Paraguay hidden in shipments of legal goods. The buyers of US guns typically pay between $800 and $1,000 and then sell them on to criminal groups for up to $20,000, he added.

According to Rojas, public officials are deeply involved in the trade, although he offered no names or further details as to which branches of the state he was referring.

InSight Crime Analysis

Rojas' description of arms trafficking in Paraguay reflects similar dynamics seen throughout much of Latin America.

Stolen military and police weapons are a major source of arms used by criminal and insurgent organizations operating in the region, including in El Salvador, Honduras, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. As was hinted at in Paraguay, the theft and trade of military weapons is commonly carried out or facilitated by corrupt members of the security forces or other government officials.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking

The United States is also a popular source of weapons due to its loose gun control regulations, which allow people to buy even high-powered assault weapons with minimal oversight. These guns are often smuggled over the border into Mexico, where they either stay in cartel hands or are trafficked on to destinations such as Central America and Colombia.