Although guerrilla movements in the 1960s and 1970s in Bolivia brought widespread crime, political violence, as well as drug and weapons trafficking, to the country, gun violence remained limited1 and the homicide rate is one of the lowest in the region.2 In terms of weapons and ammunition management, Bolivia enacted national legislation on weapons and ammunition control for the first time in 2013.3 This has, however, been deemed insufficient to tackle illegal arms trafficking,4 and the vast majority of firearms in circulation in the country remain unregistered.5 The country acceded to the UN Firearms Protocol in 20196 and notably receives assistance from the UN Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC) and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to combat illicit firearms trafficking7.
1 Aaron Karp, Surplus Arms in South America: A Survey (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2009), https://www.smallarmssurvey.org/sites/default/files/resources/SAS-WP7-Surplus-Arms-in-South-America.pdf.
2 "Bolivia," DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, May 12, 2015, https://issat.dcaf.ch/Learn/Resource-Library/Country-Profiles/Bolivia-Country-Profile.
3 Charles Parkinson, “Bolivia Enacts First Fun Control Law,” InsightCrime, September 19 2013, https://insightcrime.org/news/brief/bolivia-enacts-first-gun-law/.
4 “Bolivia,” DCAF.
5 Aaron Karp, Estimating Global Civilian-held Firearms Numbers (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2017), annex, https://www.smallarmssurvey.org/sites/default/files/resources/SAS-BP-Civilian-held-firearms-annexe.pdf.
6 “The Global Firearms Programme conducted an assessment mission to Bolivia after the State formally accessed to the Firearms Protocol,” UNODC, 2019, https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/firearms-protocol/news/gfp-assessment-mission-in-bolivia.html.
7 “UNLIREC delivers its assistance package ‘Enhancing Public Security through Crime Prevention and Firearms Control in the Andean Region',” Mapping ATT-Relevant Cooperation and Assistance Activities Database, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, 2014, https://att-assistance.org/activity/unlirec-delivers-its-assistance-package-enhancing-public-security-through-crime-prevention; “La UNODC apoya a Bolivia en la prevención y el combate del tráfico ilícito de armas de fuego,” UNODC, n.d., https://www.unodc.org/bolivia/es/stories/la-unodc-apoya-a-bolivia-en-la-prevencion-y-el-combate-del-trafico-ilicito.
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Since the Small Arms Survey began collecting data in 1979, no accidental explosions have been reported in Bolivia.
Source: “Unplanned Explosions at Munitions Sites (UEMS) Database,” Small Arms Survey, updated December 15, 2021, https://smallarmssurvey.org/database/unplanned-explosions-munitions-sites-uems.
Cases of diversion
Several cases of diversion have been reported in Bolivia.
Table 1. Cases of diversion of arms, ammunition and explosives in Bolivia
Local media reported that at least four 9 mm pistols were allegedly stolen from the arms depot of the Eduardo Abaroa Naval Military School.1
The Bolivian Ministry of Defence reported that an armed group made up of Brazilian and Bolivian nationals attacked a Bolivian border post at the Bolivian-Brazilian border and stole nine AK rifles, nine magazines and nine pistols.2
The Bolivian Public Prosecutor Office reported that 6 Brazilians nationals raided a Bolivian border post at the Brazilian-Bolivian border and stole 11 rifles, 3 pistols, 700 cartridges, 1 shotgun and 3 22 mm calibre pistols from the military personnel on duty there.3
1 Miguel Angel Melendres Galvis, "Armada Boliviana investiga supuesto robo de armas en Escuela Naval Militar," País, October 8, 2020, https://eldeber.com.bo/pais/armada-boliviana-investiga-supuesto-robo-de-armas-en-escuela-naval-militar_203669.
2 Aldo Eyzaguirre, "Asalto y robo de armas en un puesto militar boliviano en la frontera con Brasil," Defensa, June 18, 2018, https://www.defensa.com/bolivia/asalto-robo-armas-puesto-militar-boliviano-frontera-brasil.
3 "Brasil: Capturan a implicados en robo de armas en Bolivia," Correo Del Sur, December 19, 2015, https://correodelsur.com/seguridad/20151219_brasil-capturan-a-implicados-en-robo-de-armas-en-bolivia.html.
Insufficient information on the disposal of ammunition in Bolivia.
To further enhance safe and secure ammunition management, the following needs have been identified for Bolivia:
- Development or refinement of standards and procedures on stockpile management; and
- Capacity development for the destruction of surplus stockpiles.
Source: Bolivia, National Report on the Implementation of the Programme of Action on Small Arms and Light Weapons (PoA) and the International Tracing Instrument (ITI) (New York: Permanent Mission of Bolivia to the UN, 2022).