Prosecutors in El Salvador ordered the arrest of eight soldiers and one civilian linked to an arms trafficking network that may have supplied thousands of weapons to drug gangs in Guatemala and Honduras.
On March 30, the office of El Salvador’s Attorney General (FGR) ordered the arrest of the nine suspects, alleging that they had participated in a scheme which involved siphoning off weapons that were slated to be destroyed, and selling them to drug trafficking organizations.
Six of the men have already been convicted in a military court of stealing 1,800 grenades with the intention of passing them on to drug cartels. However, Salvadoran officials now suspect these men, plus three others, had already conducted illicit sales. According to court documents, the group may have sold more than 10,000 grenades and several anti-tank rocket launchers.
According to La Prensa Grafica, six of the soldiers involved were already in custody following their conviction, and the other two were arrested. The civilian has not yet been apprehended.
Julio Arriaza, director of the FGR’s Social Interests section, told reporters that his office is investigating the whereabouts of these weapons, and added that they may have been sold to the Zetas in Guatemala and to Honduran drug trafficking groups.
InSight Crime Analysis
One of the most alarming aspects of the case is the fact that two of the men were officers. This is troublesome given the Salvadoran government’s increased reliance on the military for internal security.
The military arsenals of Central America are a significant supply of arms for Mexican drug cartels, and some calculate that they are a more important source of weapons than gun stores in the United States. Members of the Guatemalan and Honduran militaries have also been accused of transferring guns to cartels. This is an especially dangerous trend, as the kinds of weapons that drug gangs can gain access to from militaries are far superior to those that can be bought or stolen from local police forces.