Cablegate: 700 Illegal Weapons Found in Uruguay
DE RUEHMN #0615/01 3091928
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 051928Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0014
INFO RHMFISS/DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0001
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 0002
RUEHSO/AMCONSUL SAO PAULO
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
S E C R E T MONTEVIDEO 000615
E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/05
TAGS: SNAR ASEC MASS PGOV UY BR
SUBJECT: 700 Illegal Weapons Found in Uruguay
CLASSIFIED BY: Robin Matthewman, Charge de Affairs, CDA; REASON:
1. (S) Uruguayan police confiscated over 700 firearms October
30- November 1, including handguns, shotguns, military style
rifles, grenades, rocket propelled grenades, and ammunition from
what appears to have been an arms trafficking operation. At least
five of the confiscated weapons are reported to have been of
Uruguayan military issue. The seizure is a demonstration of the
GOU's rising capacity to detect organized crime, and the ongoing
investigation will be a test of its ability to prosecute it. The
size and content of the cache of weapons underlines the importance
of post's weapon destruction program. End Summary.
Two caches with a total of over 700 weapons
2. (U) On October 30, Uruguayan National Police and Firemen
responded to a house fire in the Cerrito de La Victoria
neighborhood in Montevideo (10 km from the Embassy). Upon
searching the house, a large cache of weapons was discovered.
Documents discovered during the search led police to a house in
Shangrila, Canelones, located only 3 km from the Montevideo
neighborhood of Carrasco, where many embassy employees reside.
3. (U) On October 31, two members of the Uruguayan National
Police went to the house in Shangrila to further the investigation.
There they encountered an Uruguayan citizen (Saul Feldman, 64) the
apparent owner of the house. A confrontation ensued, with shots
being fired between the police and Feldman, during which one of the
officers was mortally wounded. Feldman then barricaded himself in
the house and a standoff ensued until the morning hours of Sunday,
November 1, when Feldman was killed in another shootout (some press
reports indicate he killed himself, once surrounded). Police then
entered the house and discovered another large cache of weapons.
4. (U) To date, more than 700 firearms have been confiscated by
the police from both houses, including handguns, shotguns, military
style rifles, grenades, rocket propelled grenades, and ammunition.
At least five weapons are reported to have belonged to the
Uruguayan military. A parallel investigation on weapons belonging
to the military has been launched.
5. (S ) A source told the RSO that approximately 50 Colt 45
handguns, still in their cases, belonging to the Uruguayan
military, were discovered in the searches. The source stated that
a full accounting of the weapons is going to take at least another
24 hours and the total amount of weapons confiscated could reach
over 1,000 in total. Through an RSO locally engaged staff,
Uruguayan authorities requested the help of the Embassy in tracing
the weapons. RSO has agreed to help, but has not yet been
approached by the GOU.
6. (S) Official Uruguayan identity cards asserting four
different identities with the same picture were found in the house
in Montevideo. A separate RSO source confirmed the existence of
the different identities and RSO is attempting to obtain
information on each. Press reports indicate that the identity
cards are expired.
7. (SBU) Uruguay's Special Court for Organized Crime has created
an investigative committee including participants from the Central
Bank, the Money Laundering Secretariat, intelligence agencies, and
Montevideo and Canelones police. There has of yet been no official
announcement of the suspect's activity, but most observers suspect
that this was an arms trafficking operation, with many voices in
the media suggesting Brazil as the final destination for the arms.
Note: Media coverage of recent violence in Rio de Janeiro's favelas
may be a factor in much-voiced suspicions that the arms were headed
to Brazil. End note. The investigation will also address
Feldman's decision to engage in an hours-long shoot-out that ended
with his death, considering that arms trafficking is not a codified
crime in Uruguay and he would have likely received a short
sentence, if any.
8. (SBU) This is Uruguay's first encounter with an arm's seizure
of this magnitude. Post has long been aware of the risk of
out-of-use military weapons somehow leaving the control of the
military, and designed a weapons destruction/repatriation program
to combat this threat. Under this program DOD has repatriated
11,600 M-1 rifles in 2008 that were no longer in use by the
Uruguayan military, and post is awaiting approval from PM/FO to
start the destruction (melt down) of 6,700 U.S.-made light weapons
including rifles, submachine guns, and pistols. The program will
include the destruction of 50 tons of outdated munitions. End