Despite denials from regional leaders in recent years, a new report found that Latin America continues to be engaged in an arms race that includes increased military spending in the region.
The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) report found that military spending in the region grew by 15% in recent years from $61.3 billion in 2010 to $70.9 billion in 2013.
Though the study noted that roughly half of that increase came in a period of “high inflation and strong appreciation of currencies in the region” in 2010 and 2011, military spending in the region increased by over 3% last year. Venezuela (12%), Colombia (11.6%) and Bolivia (8%) were the Latin American countries that increased their most in spending on the military in 2013 while Mexico and Central America boosted their defense funds by over 6% last year.
The IISS identified Brazil as Latin America’s top military spender in 2013 though their defense budget of $34.7 billion would only account for roughly 5.7% of the $600.4 billion spent on defense in the U.S. last year.
Ironically, Brazil was one of the few Latin American countries where military spending decreased in 2013 with a 1.1% drop. (The sharpest decline was in Uruguay that spent 4.1% less in defense last year compared to 2012).
“In Latin America, counter-narcotics and internal/border security platforms dominate regional procurements,” according to an IISS statement. As a result, equipment such as helicopters, surveillance systems and drone hybrids known as OPVs “all feature prominently in national procurement priorities”.
Speaking of OPVs, the IISS study highlighted the think tank’s concerns worldwide over the increased use of unmanned military aircraft:
The IISS said the increased use of drones was accompanied by legal and ethical questions, including whether attacks could be justified as self-defense and whether they constitute a proportional response to the status of individuals targeted.
There has been particular concern over the potential use of fully autonomous armed UAVs, without humans piloting the devices from the ground.
"Machine-based decision-making as the basis for lethal action will remain a threshold legislatures and the public will likely be unwilling to cross," the report said.
The report said that drones were once seen almost exclusively in Western armed forces, but the proliferation of smaller systems had reduced costs, enabling greater use by private companies, individuals and countries with limited financial resources.The IISS report found that global military spending decreased in 2013 despite boosted defense funding in “emerging economies” found in regions like the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.
On a similar note, a recent study from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) found that arms sales dipped by 4.1% in 2012 though that figure doesn’t included data from China. According to SIPRI Brazil’s Embraer was the only Latin American firm among the world's 100 top arms dealers and one of the few non-U.S. and European companies to make the list.
Video Source – YouTube user SkyHawk BR
Online Sources – The Latin Americanist; Reuters; GlobalPost; Stockholm International Peace Research Institute; ANSA.it; International Institute for Strategic Studies