El Salvador Ex-Military Official Arrested for Arms Trafficking

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Authorities in El Salvador have arrested a former colonel after a house raid turned up a stockpile of weapons, highlighting ongoing military involvement in arms trafficking.

On September 3, 2015, El Diario de Hoy reported that police raided the home of retired military colonel Roberto Pineda Guerra. La Prensa Grafica reported that police found a stockpile of weapons, including sniper rifles, pistols, revolvers, and a submachine gun, as well as grenades, munitions, and military uniforms. The colonel faces multiple charges of weapons possession and trafficking.

Attorney General Luis Martinez said that the raid and arrest was made in connection to an investigation involving the illegal sale of C4, a plastic explosive. Officials believe that Pineda Guerra’s weapons stockpile was intended for sale to gang members.

Pineda Guerra was a prominent leader during his military tenure. As El Nuevo Herald reported, Pineda Guerra was a member of “La Tandona,” a key military group during El Salvador’s civil war (1980-1992). Pineda Guerra was also the director of the now-defunct “Policia de Hacienda,” a military intelligence force infamous for its human rights violations.

InSight Crime Analysis

The arrest of Pineda Guerra is indicative of the continued involvement of El Salvador’s military in arms trafficking. There are multiple, past examples of corrupt military officers selling weapons to the black market, which have then ended up in the hands of local street gangs and international criminal groups, including the Zetas and other Mexican cartels.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking

Given ongoing concerns that gangs the Barrio 18 and the Mara Salvatrucha are becoming better armed than the police, this may prompt authorities to scrutinize the country’s arms trade more carefully. Pineda Guerra’s case may prove particularly significant, if he was indeed attempting to sell explosives on the black market. Recent incidents involving booby-trapped cars across El Salvador have raised fears that the gangs are reportedly becoming more sophisticated in their aggression. Notably, an investigation by La Prensa Grafica earlier this year highlighted military involvement in the illicit explosives and weapons trade. 

Military officials have nonetheless faced high levels of impunity when it comes to processing arms trafficking cases. Pineda Guerra’s case may yet prove to be an exception, but there is a long road ahead in the courts. 

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