Sunday, November 13, 2011

Following a cluster bomb

Arms trade is one of the big businesses today. The figures speak for themselves: in 2010 arms sales amounted to 150,000 million dollars. It is such a big business, with so many different actors (manufacturers, buyers, intermediary parties, regular armies, paramilitaries, guerrillas, dealers, etc.) that it is difficult to understand how it works.
To make it easier and better understand how the arms trade works, take an average company (not one of the largest, impersonal corporations) and follow its products, but do not beat about the bush by taking some far-away examples of companies located in a Caribbean Island. We have chosen a Spanish firm because it is close to us and because Spain is the ninth largest arms exporter in the world, which makes this country one of the main actors in arms trade. The chosen company is called Instalaza, with headquarters in Madrid and factory in Saragossa, and it supplies many armies in different countries. Let’s make it clear: we have chosen this company at random and it is not better or worse than many more other weaponry companies. We just wish to check how any random company works in this hideous business.
We have chosen a particular product traded by this company: MAT-120 bombs, better known as cluster bombs. Instalaza manufactured and sold cluster munitions until 2008. A cluster bomb is a form of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon that, at a given distance from the surface, releases or ejects dozens of bomblets that are designed to spread over a wide area to cause top destruction and damage. It is very effective to lay waste to an area, so it poses a particular threat to civilians. Such out-of-control devastation capacity urged an international treaty, signed in 2008, by which the 65 signatory countries are banned to use, manufacture, sell, manipulate or store cluster munitions. Spain was the fifth country to ratify this treaty and the first country to dismantle its arsenal consisting of about 6,000 cluster bombs.
Instalaza, which still exhibits MAT-120 bombs in its catalogue (although when it was reported to the press in January 2009, the company decided to clearly specify that cluster bombs were no longer manufactured or sold), complaint to the Spanish government because such treaty would drive the business to the wall and had the gall to ask for 40 million euros as business interruption compensation. Needless to say, the Spanish government did not pay such compensation but, curiously enough, some months ago the factory lands were reclassified in a very profitable way for Instalaza. It may be just a coincidence.
So far so good, but what happened to the cluster munitions manufactured by Instalaza until 2008, which were not dismantled because they were already sold to foreign countries? Only one of the seven countries to which Instalaza allegedly sold these bombs is known: Finland (Instalaza was the winning tender to supply the Finnish army with cluster bombs). No clues about the other six countries… until April 2011, when the NGO Humans Rights Watch discovered some cluster bombs manufactured by Instalaza in Misrata (Libya), used by Gaddafi forces against civilians during the revolution that ended up with Gaddafi’s regime. They are date-stamped 2007. What about the rest of cluster bombs? Should we wait until they are used against civilians to know which countries bought them?
It is not easy to fight against arms trade. For each banned bomb, arms catalogues are filled with many other “legal” weapons. International treaties are slow and limited and we cannot boycott arms trade companies because we are not their target customers. But we can do something about it: put pressure on those who finance these companies. In the 2007 report by Setem, we can check that the bombs sold to Gaddafi in 2007 were manufactured thanks to the financing credits by the following banks: Deutsche Bank, Cajalón, Caja Rural, Caja España, Caja del Mediterráneo, Bankinter, Barclays Bank, Ibercaja, Banco Popular, Banc de Sabadell and La Caixa. 
Is your money banked there? Or in any other Spanish bank financing arms trade? Maybe it’s high time to think about ethical banking, isn’t it?


  1. World Arms Trade:
  2. Post at Delivering Data about arms trade:
  3. World’s largest arm exporters:
  4. Article about Instalaza at Wikipedia:
  5. About cluster bombs:
  6. Treaty limiting the use of cluster bombs:
  7. Instalaza’s online catalogue (there is an English version):
  8. Instalaza claims 40 million euros to the Spanish government:
  9. Instalaza land reclassification:
  10. Humans Rights Watch discovers Instalaza cluster bombs in Libya:
  11. Instalaza Accounts:
  12. Setem report about banks financing arms trade:


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