InSight Map: Arms Trafficking in Bogota

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The black market for firearms in Bogota made profits of approximately $4.9 million between 2009 and 2010, according to city officials. InSight has developed a map showing that many of the center points for arm sales are located on the city’s outskirts, near the major exits points to one of Colombia’s most conflicted regions, the Eastern Plains

Authorities in Bogota seized 5,177 weapons last year, according to daily newspaper El Tiempo, including grenade launchers, machine guns, rifles and pistols. The weapons most in demand are 9mm pistols and 7.65 semi-automatics, and .32 and .38 revolvers, city officials told the newspaper.

Similarly to Medellin, where the troubled barrio Comuna 13 has long been a centerpoint for gang activity and weapons trade, due to its proximity to Highway 62 leading all the way to the coast, much of the arms activity in Bogota appears to be based in the southeast, which is the gateway to the Eastern Plains. This offers easy access to Villavicencio and onwards through Meta, where both the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia – FARC) and the Popular Antiterrorist Army of Colombia (Ejercito Popular Antiterrorista de Colombia – ERPAC) remain active.

Bogota has a lower homicide rate compared to Cali and Medellin when it comes to homicides committed by firearms. What may make the city an important center for the arms trade, especially for the rural southeast, is because Bogota is after all the logistical capital for the armed forces. The military and police are not thought to be a major source of arms for criminal groups, but corruption does exist. Fudged inventories would allow seized weapons to recycle back into the city’s black market.

There are two types of weapons trade in major cities like Bogota and Medellin: the most common involves the renting of arms for short periods of time, most frequently for hired assasins looking to avoid using a traceable weapon. Criminals also rent weapons for small-time jobs like robberies or bus hijackings.

Depending on the type of firearm, renting a weapon can cost anywhere between 100 thousand pesos (about $52) and 1.5 million pesos (about $786), while purchasing a gun will cost between 165,000 pesos (about $87) and 37 million pesos (about $19,400), El Tiempo reports.

The second type of urban weapons trade involves illegal groups looking to expand their arsenals. The drug-trafficking bands descended from the paramilitaries, called “criminal bands” (bandas criminales – BACRIMS) by the government, are believed to represent one of the greatest demands for weapons on the black market. The arsenal for BACRIMS consists mostly of recycled weapons which were never turned over to the government during the demobilization process.

The FARC and the National Liberation Army (Ejercito Nacional de Liberacion – ELN) have also tyically represented a major demand for weapons in the black market. But there are indications that with the decline of the power of these groups, many guerrilla fronts are making do with older model AK-47s and Galil assault rifles. The typical source of weapons for these groups has been arms coming in from the international market, occassionally diverted illegally from the arsenals of the security forces in neighboring countries like Peru.

InSight has developed a map showing the center points of the weapons trade in Bogota. The blue placemarks represent the areas where the most weapons were seized last year. The red placemarks represent the areas where weapons are reportedly most commonly bought, sold and rented.


View Bogota Arms Trafficking in a larger map

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