Lethal Firepower

March 20, 2018 Crime , Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , OTHER

Timothy Tsui photo



Ricardo Swire



In the recent past Caribbean national internal security officials have noted the amount of high-powered assault rifles and ultra modern pistols, equipped with armor-piercing ammunition, in the hands of regional drug cartel members. The illicit trade of small arms is a major global security threat. The Belgium made FN Five-seven or Five-seveN semi-automatic pistol, capable of piercing bullet proof vest and body armor, is now a Mexican cartel favorite. One FN Five-seven pistol retails for US$5,000 on Mexico’s black market.


The deadly guns and associated bullets enter Mexico via covert routes from its northern neighbor, Cartel associates making legal purchases from US gun stores. A November 2016 joint US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)/Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE)/Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) gun trafficking case emphasized the extent of such creative export methods. Resident “straw purchasers” bought a surplus of AR-15, AK-47 semiautomatic rifles and Beretta 92FS semiautomatic pistols from Academy and Kirkpatrick Guns & Ammo stores in Laredo and San Antonio Texas.


Two Mexican brothers obtained the straw purchasers’ guns and resold them for profit to a third Mexican who arranged transfer. Mexican intelligence officials first noticed the FN Five-seven’s popularity in 2007 after similar weapons were used by gunmen to attack Mexican Federal Police officers on duty in Mexico City. US ATF data verified the FN Five-seven semiautomatic pistol as Mexican criminal organizations’ “weapon of choice.” Patterns show the Fabrique Nationale d’Armes de Guerre-Herstal manufactured “cop killer” pistol and ammunition is also available on Colombia’s black market.


Only Colombian residents with permits issued by the Ministry of Defense are legally allowed to own handguns, shotguns and rifles. Domestic internal security reports noted several easily accessible black market alternatives. Shopping at the right place in Bogota a revolver can be purchased for US$150. A 9mm semi-automatic pistol costs US$350 cash without warranty. FN Five-seven pistols are bought by members of Miami’s large Colombian Diaspora for between US$855 and US$1,050. Such guns are later exported to Colombia, via the Uraba region that borders the Caribbean Sea, then sold for as much as pesos 8,490 on the black market.


National Police of Colombia detectives recovered several discharged FN- Five-seven cartridges scattered at crime scenes across Medellin, physical proof of the Cartels’ increased firepower and attempt to counter Mexican rivals. Colombia’s criminal syndicates, left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries are unseen instigators behind smuggled weapons worth tens of millions of untaxed dollars. During one internal security operation National Police of Colombia officers, guided by intelligence briefs, seized a FN PS90 compact assault rifle.


The gun was traced to a violent street gang with loyalties to a Medellin mafia capo known as “Sebastian.” Caribbean intelligence officials highlight the FN Five-seven pistol and FN PS90 are both NATO Special Forces/law enforcement armaments. In 2005 the FN PS90 war weapon was made available for sale to civilians in the USA. Both firearms are Colombia’s city mafia or “Oficina de Envigado” favorite guns. In July 2010 FN Five-seven pistols were used to kill eight residents in a Medellin nightclub massacre.


During a Bogota counter-narcotics enforcement raid two FN Five-seven pistols plus trafficable portions of marijuana and coca base were seized. Colombia’s continuously warring underworld factions have upgraded their firearm arsenals. During a turf take-over the Urabenos Cartel used high-powered AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles to capture rival Medellin barrios. Colombia’s arms trade is fuelled by these large scale powerful criminal organizations cloaked in the political violence.


Caribbean intelligence statistics tabulated no less than 400,000 foreign guns enter Colombia annually. Such weapons are masked in cargo aboard ships, transported via Central America thru Panama to Colombia. In March 2015 a Chinese ship destined for Cuba was intercepted by law enforcement transiting Colombia’s Caribbean port of Cartagena. The Da Dan Xia was manifested to transport grain products. Instead Colombian internal security officials guided by fluid intelligence found one hundred tons of gunpowder, three million detonators and three thousand cannon shells, on the ship owned by China’s largest shipping company Cosco Shipping.


According to its itinerary the Da Dan Xia was also scheduled to dock at port of Barranquilla in Colombia prior to voyaging to Cuba. Caribbean intelligence officials have traced thirty-seven covert routes from Panama, or Colombia’s second largest weapons hub.  Twenty-six from Ecuador to Colombia, twenty-one others originate from Venezuela. Fourteen secret routes extend from Brazil.  As long as Colombia’s cocaine production and political insurgency continue to generate lucrative cash returns the regional small arms trade will flourish.





Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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