HomeNewsUruguay Becoming Arms Trafficking Hub Between Argentina and Brazil

Uruguay Becoming Arms Trafficking Hub Between Argentina and Brazil


Uruguay has been making regular seizures of weapons smuggled in from Argentina, indicating that the country is becoming a preferred transit hub for arms traffickers.

In the latest case, ten people were convicted of arms and ammunition trafficking in early August, according to Uruguay's Interior Ministry.

Beginning last November, Uruguayan authorities uncovered a network smuggling weapons into the country's Soriano and Río Negro departments.

In late July, security forces made their move, seizing thousands of rounds of ammunition, silencers, telescopic sights, and an assault rifle, according to the country’s Navy.

SEE ALSO: Uruguay News and Profile

Argentina is the most common point of origin for arms coming into Uruguay. In December 2021, two Uruguayan nationals were arrested for smuggling rifles, shotguns, and ammunition across the Uruguay River from Argentina.

While a link to Brazil was not mentioned in the most recent case, that country is a frequent destination for arms trafficked through Uruguay. In June, four men were jailed on arms trafficking charges after being caught smuggling magazines for automatic weapons from the United States and sending them to Brazil. And last August, an active police officer was found guilty of smuggling small arms and ammunition from Uruguay's border city of Rivera into Brazil.

InSight Crime Analysis

Despite efforts by the Uruguayan government to better regulate the possession, transport, and sale of weapons, arms trafficking has steadily increased in Uruguay over the past few decades, according to the Global Organized Crime Index.

The country’s location between Argentina and Brazil makes it ideal territory for this criminal economy.

With high rates of legal gun ownership, Uruguay has long been a prime source of weapons for Brazilian gangs operating across the border in the state of Rio Grande do Sul.

Firearms have previously been smuggled to the Red Command (Comando Vermelho – CV), by members of Uruguay’s police force and military, while members of another Brazilian gang, Os Manos, were detained last year stockpiling pistols on the border.

SEE ALSO: Killings Pile Up in Uruguay Due to Brazil Gang War

Some of these gangs are now expanding into Uruguay, where they are fighting to control drug dealing in border provinces. Along with unrelated clashes between small drug trafficking groups in the capital Montevideo, these may explain increased demand for guns and ammunition.

The market’s growth is also corroborated by the fact the guns came from Argentina. Argentine gun runners have long supplied Brazilian gangs, primarily via Paraguay. According to a 2021 country profile by the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime (GI-TOC), Argentina's own domestic gun market has also recently grown.

That surplus of options suggests shipping to Uruguay - previously an uncommon route for Argentine arms - is a deliberate choice. “Uruguay is...a destination country for illegal weapons,” reported the GI-TOC’s 2021 Uruguay profile.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.


Related Content


Uruguay has made Latin America's largest ever seizure of European methamphetamine, marking a new phase in drug trafficking dynamics.

BRAZIL / 17 AUG 2021

João Soares Rocha, 64, has been identified by the Brazilian police as the ringleader of an international cocaine trafficking network.


Multiple raids carried out in Argentina have revealed a criminal network capitalizing on the emergence of new COVID-19 variants by…

About InSight Crime


InSight Crime's Chemical Precursor Report continues to be a reference in the region

19 MAY 2023

For the second week in a row, our investigation into the flow of precursor chemicals for the manufacture of synthetic drugs in Mexico has been cited by multiple regional media…


InSight Crime’s Chemical Precursor Report Widely Cited


We are proud to see that our recently published investigation into the supply chain of chemical precursors feeding Mexico’s synthetic drug production has been warmly received.


InSight Crime’s Paraguay Election Coverage Draws Attention 

5 MAY 2023

InSight Crime looked at the various anti-organized crime policies proposed by the candidates in Paraguay’s presidential election, which was won on April 30 by Santiago Peña. Our pre-election coverage was cited…


InSight Crime Cited in OAS, CARICOM Reports

28 APR 2023

This week, InSight Crime’s work was cited nine times in a new report by the Organization of American States (OAS) titled “The Impact of Organized Crime on Women,…


InSight Crime Staff Cited as Experts by International Media

21 APR 2023

This week, InSight Crime deputy editor, Juan Diego Posada, was interviewed by the Associated Press about connections between the ex-FARC mafia and Brazilian criminal groups, and…