Caribbean Armed Violence Fueled by Small-Scale Gun US Traffickers

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – High rates of gun violence in the Caribbean are being fueled by small-scale trafficking, largely from the United States, via shipping firms, commercial airlines and by post, according to a new report by the Geneva-based Small Arms Survey.

Caribbean countries suffer three times more violent deaths than the global average, often caused by firearms, despite tight regulations on gun ownership and little domestic manufacturing, the report found.

Last week, Caribbean heads of state vowed to ban civilian assault weapons across the region and stand with a lawsuit launched by the Mexican government seeking to hold U.S. gun-makers accountable for arms trafficking out of the country.

Matt Schroeder, a senior researcher for the Small Arms Survey, told Reuters that shipments to the Caribbean often consist of up to a couple dozen guns or several hundred rounds of ammunition, hidden among food or clothing by small-scale traffickers.

Logistical issues preventing the screening of every shipping container and package means that little knowledge, money or infrastructure is needed to camouflage deadly weapons among thousands of shipments transported each day, the report said.

More than half of 29 trafficking networks it studied through court reports used shipping companies, mostly located in Florida, to smuggle arms and ammunition into the Caribbean, the report found, while nearly one in five used commercial airlines, sometimes helped by corrupt airport personnel or law enforcement.

One in 10 used postal services, the report said.

Most pistols seized and traced across the region were made by Glock, Beretta, Smith & Wesson and Taurus, it added.

Neither the U.S. State Department nor the four gun manufacturers immediately responded to Reuters’ request for comment.

In Haiti, where heavily armed gangs are estimated to control most of the country and engage in frequent gun battles, the report noted increased seizures of large-caliber and semi-automatic rifles, more common among Mexican drug cartels than in the Caribbean.

Professional estimates it cited pegged the number of civilian firearms in Haiti at 600,000 last year, up from 270,000 in 2019.

(Reporting by Sarah Morland in Mexico City; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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