Video Exposes Southern Cone Illicit Gun Trade

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Footage shot using a hidden camera sheds light on the dynamics of the Southern Cone’s illicit arms trade, showing how easy it is to purchase weapons at the tri-border area, where Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay meet. 

The video, titled “Lawless Border,” shows how easy it is to cross into Argentina from Brazil via the Bernardo de Irigoyen border crossing. A journalist working for a Brazilian television program makes the trip without any harassment from customs officials. (See video below)

Just on the other side, he encounters illegal weapons vendors who operate just a few steps away from border and security checkpoints. Casually speaking on a sidewalk in plain public view, a gun seller asks what caliber of weapon the journalist is looking for, and is unfazed when asked for a .40 caliber pistol, 9mm pistol, or a .38 revolver.

“I have some, but I have to send for them,” the seller says, adding that a 9mm pistol used by Argentina’s armed forces costs about $820.

A meeting is arranged for the next day, where the journalist finally sees the merchandise and given prices: a .38 caliber costs about $770, while a .32 caliber goes for around $590.

The journalist also visits a store where ammunition is sold and is told he could buy 100 boxes of .38 caliber bullets, each one costing about $75.

To cross back into Brazil, the journalist is instructed he’d simply need to put the gun “in a plastic bag and walk across so as not to draw attention. If you cross here, no one will get suspicious.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The video is a rare look at how sellers, intermediaries, and buyers interact in the Southern Cone’s illicit arms trade. The tri-border region, where Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay meet (and where this video was shot), is a major hub for all kinds of illicit goods, including weapons.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Arms Trafficking

Brazil is a prime destination for illegal weapons in the region, with arms trafficking networks working to feed the demand of criminal organizations like the First Capital Command (PCC) and Red Command (Comando Vermelho). Weapons are sourced from a variety of places, including Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina. In many cases, the weapons are either apparently stolen or sold off by corrupt officials, drawing from military stockpiles.

In one such illustrative case, on September 17, the Argentine military announced nine 9mm pistols had been stolen from a military base. This was the third such reported theft in 2015, with 26,000 9mm bullets and an anti-tank missile stolen earlier this year. Argentine military personnel have again come under suspicion.

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