Originally published in the LA Times
By Robert Muggah, Steven Dudley
During the 1980s, El Salvador was the single largest recipient of U.S. military hardware and weaponry in the Western Hemisphere. Although the Central American country’s civil war ended in 1992, the guns, grenades and bullets linger, as do their murderous effects. In September, a U.S. official from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives estimated that half the weapons available on El Salvador’s vibrant black market were made in the United States.
Although some arms and ammunition were undoubtedly illegally trafficked from the United States, and Latin American authorities routinely blame shadowy foreign arms dealers for running guns to Central and South America, the real source is probably much closer to home: local military and police arsenals. A good example of this can be found in the case of a Salvadoran officer who was sentenced in November for selling about 50 weapons on the black market, including four AR-15s, the commercial version of the U.S.-made M16 assault rifle. All of them were siphoned from Salvadoran army stores.