US and Colombian police say that they have uncovered evidence of two Florida-based networks which smuggled arms into Colombia, evidence of the role US gun traffickers play in arming criminal groups in the country.
El Tiempo reported that the discovery of an illegal arms shipment in Bogota’s international airport resulted in Colombian and US authorities identifying two separate family-run arms trafficking networks which sent weapons from central and south Florida to Colombia. No arrests have been announced in the case so far.
According to officials, the families are based in the Florida cities of Tampa and Miami, and shipped arms to relatives in Barranquilla and Medellin. Further investigation by Colombia’s judicial police (DIJIN) revealed that the main buyers of these weapons were the Rastrojos and Urabeños drug gangs. One of the trafficking networks, according to DIJIN investigators, is headed by a former demobilized member of the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) who now resides in the United States.
The illicit cargo, mostly consisting of pistols, grenades and various kinds of ammunition, was hidden inside electronic appliances in order to pass through customs undetected.
InSight Crime Analysis
While most illegal weapons enter Colombia from neighboring countries like Ecuador or Venezuela, this is not the first time that an investigation has pointed to the United States as a source of weapons for the South American country. Police in Medellin have traced several semi-automatic pistols and a P90 compact assault rifle to a gun store in Miami, and believe that the “Miami connection” is a major source of high-powered weaponry to the Colombian criminal underworld.
Gun stores in the southwest US have also been linked to the illicit arms trade in Colombia. In September, Colombian press reported that at least two rifles and 14 pistols linked to the controversial “Fast and Furious” operation, which was created with the intent to monitor cartel gun purchases along the US/Mexico border, had fallen into the hands of Colombian gangs.