Drones count among the hottest military technology on the market, and Latin American nations have been buying, according to a report last week by The Christian Science Monitor. UPI also explored the growing influence of Israeli firm Elbit Systems in the region. Elbit drones have a significant presence in Latin America, with both Hermes and Heron drones recently sold to Brazil. Hermes drones have also appeared in Mexico, and the Heron has been seen in Ecuador. The Monitor‘s feature follows last month’s news the United States is flying Predator and Global Hawk drones over Mexico to snoop on drug traffickers.
Not there is any evidence these drones are armed. But that could change, and the potential for weapon-wielding robots have some Latin American experts worried. The development of drones as weapons platforms is a “double-edged” sword, in the words of regional specialist Johanna Mendelson Forman.
A leaked U.S. diplomatic cable revealed more information regarding the origin of weapons used by Mexican drug cartels. According to the cable, three years ago the Defense Intelligence Agency found that 26 of 50 light anti-tank weapons (or LAWs) supplied to the Honduran military in 1992 are now unaccounted for, with several discovered in Mexico and Colombia. U.S.-origin M433 grenades also found their way from Honduran stockpiles to Mexico. The leak, and recent comments by U.S. General Douglas Fraser on arms trafficking from Central America has contributed to an ongoing debate over where drug cartels are receiving weapons, how many and from where.