South American Authorities Arrest Thousands of Arms Trafficking Suspects

Published: 07 April 2021

PERU 8Police in Peru inspecting seized weapons. (Photo: Interpol)

By Julett Pineda

Police across South America arrested nearly 4,000 suspects and confiscated some 200,000 illicit firearms, ammunition, explosives and components in a massive operation targeting arms trafficking, Interpol said on Tuesday.

The international organization coordinated Operation Trigger VI in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and local authorities from 13 South American countries.

Although authorities were targeting regional arm trafficking networks and potential smuggling routes, they also seized more than 21 tons of cocaine, marijuana and other chemicals.

As South America’s struggles to contain the coronavirus and vaccinate its population, the illicit gun trade remains a serious challenge across the region, the operation revealed.

Only in Brazil, authorities confiscated nearly 4,000 firearms and about 20,000 kilograms of drugs. Police also arrested more than 3,400 suspects, establishing links between arms trafficking, gangs, counterfeiting and smuggling networks. 

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, police reportedly destroyed 27 camouflaged cocaine labs scattered across the country and rescued 33 alleged human trafficking victims during a firearms raid in the capital. 

Similarly, local authorities from Peru and Chile arrested three fugitives on Interpol red notices for firearms trafficking and serious drug crimes. 

The operation also saw the recovery of undetonated grenades and the arrest of two Uruguayan gang members who used social media to flaunt illegal guns. 

“Operation Trigger VI has seen thousands of illicit weapons taken out of the hands of criminals and is testimony to the commitment of South American law enforcement despite the challenges of a global pandemic,” said Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock.

So far, authorities have detected the illicit sale of 90,000 pieces of ammunition and expect more arrests will follow the investigation.

“Firearms present a very serious threat to South America’s security and stability. This is why multi-agency transnational cooperation is essential to identify and dismantle the organized crime and terrorist groups involved,” Stock said.