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Gragin, Kim and Bruce Hoffman. 2003 ‘General Arms Trafficking Patterns.’ Arms Trafficking and Colombia; Chapter Three, pp. 17-18. Santa Monica CA: National Defense Research Institute (RAND). 1 January

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General Arms Trafficking Patterns

Most small arms move from external sources into Colombia through black-market routes.(1) The arms trafficking data we gathered, covering the period from January 1998 to September 2001, revealed that 78 percent of the trafficking involves black-market activities.(2) Weapons purchased in illegal markets are also transported via the "underground" and sold through Colombia's internal small-arms black market.

While it is tempting to assume that insurgents and drug dealers are responsible for purchasing all of the illegal weapons arriving in Colombia, this assumption is, in fact, incorrect. For example, for every private citizen who owns a registered firearm in Colombia at least three to four others possess an unregistered weapon.(3) And this estimate does not even include members of guerrilla or paramilitary organizations, only ordinary citizens. With such a high volume of small arms purchased illegally by a wide spectrum of Colombia's populace, it is difficult to isolate the weapons purchased and used exclusively by insurgents and even more difficult to ascertain the total volume of illegal arms sold and purchased in Colombia.

Moreover, these weapons are rarely trafficked or purchased in bulk (which would make tracing them easier). Instead, small arms "trickle" into Colombia by ones and twos or at most by the dozen, rather than cascading into the country by the thousands.

The plethora of trafficking venues underscores the vast dimensions of this market. There are 21 known arms trafficking routes from Venezuela, 26 from Ecuador, 37 from Panama, and 14 from Brazil.(4) Most of these routes involve small waterways through swamps or paths alongside the Amazon jungle or Darien Gap. Speedboats also regularly bring weapons into Colombia from coves along the Panamanian coast…

Sources cited:

1)The information in this chapter is derived from literally hundreds of sources. To eliminate the documentation difficulties associated with this number of sources, we cite only articles that include narratives on numerous routes, rather than cite every article that refers to a particular city, waterway, or method. For more information, see the appendix, which describes the methodology used to collect this information.

2) See the appendix. (Note: References listed as "See the appendix" in this report indicate that the information was culled from or informed by the entire RAND data set, verified by author interviews, and not just from one or two specific sources.)

3) Author interviews, Colombian security officials, Bogotá, June 2000; "El Tráfico De Armas En Bogotá," El Espectador, February 7, 2000.

4) These numbers are those that have been historically provided by local authorities in the region. However, as Chapter Four outlines, our research revealed a number of additional routes.

ID: Q11831

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