Reports indicate that on October 8 four armed robbers assaulted a gun shop in Montevideo’s Larrañaga neighborhood, purportedly stealing more than 30 weapons and ammunition. Police sources cited by reports indicate that the heist was carefully planned, suggesting the involvement of an organized group believed to have taken part in similar assaults against gun shops and armories. Officials have reportedly expressed concern over a nationwide uptick in the number of heists and attempted robberies to steal firearms since 2016, suggesting further heists are liable to take place in Montevideo. Authorities further connected these instances with high-profile assaults against armored cars in Montevideo and Canelones. On September 3, ten individuals armed with assault rifles intercepted an armored van as it was loading cash bags in the vicinity of the Legislative Palace in central Montevideo. The assailants successfully managed to extract the funds and fled the scene after a shootout with security agents. One of the suspects was subsequently arrested days later.
Uruguay has one of the largest numbers of privately-owned guns per capita, with 34.7 firearms per 100 residents. While firearms sold at gun shops are not considered affordable to the wider public, intelligence sources suggest there is a growing market for counterfeit and stolen guns. Firearms sold at the Uruguayan black market are considerably cheaper than those found in parallel markets in neighboring countries, giving rise to criminal operations trafficking weapons from Uruguay to Brazil. While this trend remains, it is uncertain whether the assailants targeting the gun shop on October 8 sought to sell their arsenal locally or abroad, if not use it to commit heists. Although police could potentially detain criminals and prevent subsequent heists, the presence of organized criminal elements involved in arms-trafficking and armed robbery will continue to pose an overall security risk. In the meantime, precedent suggests financial institutions and armored vehicles carrying cash are liable to be targeted in broad daylight by armed assailants, especially in the metropolitan area of Montevideo.