Honduras-based criminal groups would have been good trading partners for the AUC. Honduras lies on the way to the world's biggest cocaine market, the United States, and so it makes sense to send cocaine there before it made the journey north to Mexico and the U.S.
Honduras is also sandwiched between countries which, at the time of these deals, had recently come out of prolonged civil wars; Nicaragua in the 1980s, and Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1990s. The end of these Cold War-era conflicts left thousands of surplus military weapons in the region, many from the USSR, often in poorly-guarded military storage facilities.
The deals listed in the indictment against Sierra all involve the shipment of used, Russian-made, AK-47 rifles. The exchange rate for these seems to vary between three and eight kilos of cocaine per rifle. An AK-47 rifle cost around $200 in Honduras in the second half of the 1990s, according to World Bank data quoted by the Small Arms Survey 2007, while the wholesale price of a kilo of cocaine in Honduras in 2004 is estimated at almost $5,000. Taken together, this means Sierra's deals would have represented an extremely good deal for the AUC's partners in that country.
If the Honduran traffickers took the cocaine into the U.S., each kilo would have been worth almost $30,000.
It would also make sense for the paramilitaries, who had an abundant supply of the drug but were in constant need of arms, which deteriorate quickly in the semi-tropical regions where much of the fighting took place.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Insight -- Honduran Weapons for Colombian Cocaine: The Paramilitary Trafficking Routes
"A court case involving one of Colombia's most powerful drug traffickers sheds light on how cocaine flowed to Central America in exchange for arms in the heyday of the AUC paramilitary force."