By Ben Tavener, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Sales of Brazilian-made firearms to the U.S. increased 187.5 percent while former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was in office, compared to the same eight-year period of his predecessor. The U.S. purchased nearly 7.9 million, or eighty percent, of the 9.9 million exported Brazilian firearms in the past forty years, Folha de S.Paulo newspaper reports.
The total of 7,873,321 firearms sold to the U.S. between 1971 and 2011 dwarfs sales to the next biggest importers of Brazilian guns: Argentina (215,216), Paraguay (154,711), Yemen (112,272) and Germany (109,273).
Of the 9.9 million firearms sold, 42.2 percent were revolvers, 23.8 percent were shotguns (espingardas), 17.8 percent were pistols, with the rest a mixture of different types of rifles, including semi-automatic weapons.
Figures from the Brazilian Army Command, released after a request by the São Paulo newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that 59 percent of this total, 4.6 million units, was exported between 2003 and 2010, enough to arm every person in the state of Louisiana today.
In 2011, the final year included in the Army report, Brazil exported more firearms to the U.S. than Austria and Germany combined, the second and third biggest firearms exporters to the U.S., after Brazil.
Brazilian arms manufacturer Taurus, headquartered in Porto Alegre, in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, has been responsible for over half of Brazilian arms exports to the U.S. since 1971, and around half of the products this company makes are sold to American buyers.
The company, founded in 1941 and arriving in the U.S. in 1968, is now one of the world’s biggest manufacturers of small firearms and the fourth biggest in the States. Taurus USA was created in 1984 and, along with its factory in Miami, the company reportedly arms police forces in over seventy countries. In Brazil, according to Taurus, the company’s revenues were R$701 million last year, a 13.4 percent increase.
Along with Amadeo Rossi, the two companies are responsible for the vast majority of Brazil’s firearm exports to the U.S., although it is not clear whether the U.S. is the final destination for the arms, as there is no official data on re-exportation and Brazilian parent companies do not inform the Brazilian government.
However, experts say it is common practice for arms to be re-exported and a UN treaty aimed at obligating companies to provide details of the “final user” was watered down.
Brazil is also home to one of the world’s largest ammunition manufacturers, the Companhia Brasileira de Cartuchos (CBC), based in São Paulo state.
One of the biggest importers of Brazilian firearms in the U.S., according to Folha, is Springfield Incorporation, renowned for its support of the NRA (National Rifle Association), reportedly the driving force for U.S. President Barack Obama’s recent Congress defeat over plans for tighter gun controls.
Brazil’s wider defense industry has been booming in recent years, thanks partly to government incentives aimed at modernizing Brazil’s armed forces and developing a strong, export-led military industry. Although the country is far from its position in the 1980s and early 1990s, when it was in the top ten of global military exporters, the Brazilian Association of Defense and Security Equipment, ABIMDE, last year signaled that US$120 billion would be invested long term in the industry.
The growth will double the 25,000 jobs it directly creates, and boosting exports from US$1.7 billion to US$4 billion, all of which would mean a greater presence on the international military market. Experts say the industry will now target “periphery customers,” such as those in Latin America and Africa, which are in need of “more modest” military equipment.