Salvadoran prosecutors have accused a retired army coronel once in charge of its weapons stockpile of illegally selling arms, the latest such charge against the country’s military.
An investigation by the Prosecutor General's organized crime unit found that retired Colonel Alberto Gonzalez Quezada sold two semi-automatic rifles to people who did not meet legal requirements to own them.
Gonzalez served as head of El Salvador's military's Logistics Division in 2010 before retiring after 30 years service in the army, Prensa Grafica reported. The Logistics Division is responsible for storing the army's weapons, and arms seized by the national police.
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) found that the guns' original serial numbers had been erased and painted over, according to El Diario de Hoy. El Salvador's police analysis revealed that one rifle contained a piece from a gun that had been seized during a police rescue of kidnapping victims in 2001.
InSight Crime Analysis
The case of the colonel forms part of a larger pattern of elements in the Salvadoran military allegedly selling weapons, sometimes to drug trafficking organizations. Last year, a former lieutenant was accused of trying to sell machine guns and other military equipment to an alleged member of the Zetas. Eight soldiers and one civilian were charged in April this year with being part of a network that siphoned off weapons that were meant to be destroyed, selling them on to drug trafficking groups in Guatemala and Honduras. Six of the soldiers had been arrested a year earlier for allegedly attempting to sell 1,800 hand grenades to criminal groups.
The arrest of Gonzalez, a colonel who served as head of the division that stored weapons, indicates just how high these weapons trafficking networks may reach in the armed forces.
Guatemala and Honduran army officials have also been accused of selling arms to drug traffickers; some experts estimate that Central America’s militaries supply more arms to Mexican drug cartels than gun stores in the United States. The region still has a huge stockpile of military weapons after decades of civil conflicts.