According to one press report, inmates involved in last weekend’s Yare I riot had at least 100 assault rifles (!!), an M60 machine gun (500 rounds per minute to you and me), a number of grenades, some plastic explosives and several Dragunov sniper rifles.
How does a jailed criminal get his hands on a high powered, Military-grade Russian gun that can pick off a target 800 meters away?
We can’t be sure, but we do know Chávez bought at least 5,000 of those Dragunovs for the military five years ago, lightheartedly joking then: “…whenever an imperialist pokes his head in we’re going to take him down, wherever he is, day or night” as he announced the buy. Well, it wasn’t imperialists who ended up in the Dragunovs’ line of fire, but inmates in the jail he used to call home.
We don’t know how many illegal weapons there are – estimates go between six to fifteen million. But, what about the ones legally purchased? It is possible to have an idea of how many weapons are out there, with some of them in the wrong hands?
Thanks to a new initiative by Google, maybe there is. The web giant recently announced a new interactive data map to identify the global trade of small weapons and ammunition. With the help of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), they were able to show all the buys and sells of weapons around the world between 1992 and 2010.
During that 18-year period, Venezuela spent 228,506,511 US$ on guns and ammo, with two thirds of that (164,359,418 US$) in purchases made by the Chavernment between 2000 and 2010. By contrast, Venezuelan exports fetched just 3,817,490 US$ in the same period, and only 788,390 US$ in the last decade.
Where did the money go? 100,900,332 US$ was used to buy “civilian” weapons while 103,018,930 US$ was for bullets and shells. The rest was for military purposes, but as this database is focused only on light weapons, Sukhois or missile systems are not included. If any part of the government’s buying spree made this list, it was those 100.000 Kalashnikovs Chavez bought to Russia (3.000 of which were manufactured right here).
No wonder, ordinary people are now more afraid of not returning home one day. This is only a small glimpse of how a hypotetical process of disarmament in Venezuela will be extremely diffcult to implement.