South American countries spent more than US$51 billion in military expenditures and investment in 2008, almost 30% more than the previous year, according to a study carried out by the Centro de Estudios Unión para la Nueva Mayoría.
All countries in the region raised their military budgets last year, the most notable being Colombia, with an increase of 30%. The study identifies Brazil as the country with the largest defense allocation, almost US$27.5 billion.
The country will need to increase defense spending even more as a result of its recently signed agreement with France to purchase military equipment and share military technology. On September 8th, Nelson Jobim, the Minister of Defense, presented a proposal that called for the restructuring of the Armed Forces to the leaders of the Chamber of Deputies, who questioned him concerning the military accord with France.
On September 7th the Brazilian government confirmed negotiations with France. The governments of both countries issued press releases concerning the military cooperation agreement that included the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter planes.
In the opinion of an adviser to President Lula, Brazil signed the pact with France because the Sarkozy’s government was the only one willing to offer technology transfer for weapons production. Considered one of the navy’s most ambitious initiatives, the strategy includes the construction of a shipyard and naval base in Itaguaí (Rio de Janiero), where four conventional Scorpène submarines and a nuclear submarine will be built, according to information provided by the agency G1.
**Colombia and Venezuela**
According to the study, after Brazil, Colombia has the second largest defense allocation in the region, approximately 14% of its budget. Chile, where a complete refit of the Armed Forces is taking place is a similar example of increased budgetary spending on the military.
Heather Sutton, the coordinator of Brazil’s Movilización de Control de Armas del Instituto Sou da Paz, considers the increase in military spending throughout Latin America alarming. She points out that the region ranks very high in international indexes of firearms-related fatalities. Citing information provided by the agency Adital, she states that in Brazil alone, approximately 34,000 people suffer firearms-related deaths each year.
In Heather’s opinion, the principal concerns are the lack of spending priorities and excessive expenditure. As summed up by the agency Adital, “The problem resides in the astronomic cost of equipment such as a nuclear submarine, the intended use of which is completely unknown”.
*(Translator Jenni Lukac)*