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  Kalashnikovs
  Trade in automatic rifles is big business
 
 
  Gun smuggling:

• Firearms have been smuggled from the USA to Mexico in a number of guises - inside food, tvs and even dead bodies.
• In one recent case, a Mexican arms smuggler received an 18 month jail sentence for attempting to traffic US$100,000 worth of firearms into Mexico.
• The standard sentence for trafficking US$100,000 worth of cocaine is 15 years.
 
 
 
   
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  Circulating weapons across Central America

Central America is awash with weapons. The intricate web of demand and supply here illustrates why the movement of guns to the black market is so difficult to control.

Most of the countries in Central America have huge numbers of firearms in civilian hands. Very often these guns are leftovers from the civil wars fought in the 1980s.

The availability of guns makes them cheap - and therefore attractive to smugglers looking to turn a profit. An automatic rifle bought for US$100 in Nicaragua can be sold for US$300 in Costa Rica, US$500 in Panama and US$2500 in Colombia.

Guns are just as likely to be transported in bulk. In 2001, the government of Nicaragua sold 3000 AK-47 assault rifles and several million rounds of ammunition to the National Police of Panama. The deal was brokered from nearby Guatemala.

But the arms never arrived in Panama. Instead they were deliberately diverted to Colombia. An illegal, violent paramilitary group recently admitted that they received the shipment.

Arms and ammunition, many of them leftovers from the civil wars of the 1980s, are still in circulation. As if that wasn't enough to trouble law-enforcement agencies, the illegal movement of weapons around Central America is further complicated by the proximity and gun culture of the United States.

The USA has more guns in civilian hands than any other nation - in fact there are more guns owned privately in America than there are in all the stocks of all the world's armies put together.

Yet even here, in a country where the right to bear firearms is enshrined in the constitution, there is a booming black market in weapons.

The huge number of firearms in private hands provides a rich source for arms smugglers. If an American wants to buy a firearm from a legal gun-shop he or she must show proof of identity; those with criminal records are turned away.
 
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