Peruvian President Alan García’s gesture of proposing a reduction in Defence spending and arms purchasing to the rest of South America could be understood, perhaps, in two ways: as the real, painstaking and conscious intention of wanting to focus on the problem of military spending in one of the regions with a high poverty index or as an flamboyant gesture. The Government of Peru has suggested this possibility to its partners in the region. Below let’s see if it is possible to be closer to an agreement or closer to a facade.
The commitment proposed by Peru and which forms part of the “Protocol for Peace, Security and Cooperation” is to reduce defence spending by 3% and 15% in arms over the next five years.
There may be different motives behind the Peruvian proposal, from the amazement it may generate, the aggregate sums in arms investment up to an unresolved border problem with Chile. It also may contain a lot of ingenuity.
**The embarrassing figures**
Venezuela has reached an agreement with Russia to begin a process of modernising its military apparatus for a total of 120 million dollars. It includes the acquisition of transport and attack helicopters, the purchase of 100 thousand assault rifles and 20 advanced Super Tucano training planes from Brazil. Also included in the shopping cart were 12 transport, naval patrol and corvette planes of Spanish origin.
Chile has a Defence budget close to 4.2% of its GDP. It acquires and renews arms under the military hypothesis of the simultaneous conflict with its three neighbours: Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. Revenue for the canon of copper exploitation assigns to the mapocha militia 10% of what was produced by these exports to a special Air Force fund. Similarly it sells its non-renewable belligerent material to Ecuador, who in the 1990s maintained belligerent confrontations with Peru and to Colombia.
Meanwhile, Brazil is modernising with Israeli technology, 46 F-5E combat planes manufactured in the US. It is designed to strengthen its presence in the international and regional arms market as well as the level of development of its military industry.
Peru signed a cooperation agreement with Russia to modernise air material with Russian credit of 200 million dollars. It also has an agreement with France to update the Mirage 2000 combat planes acquired in the 1980s. Lima also acquired two frigates from the Italian Navy and the political and diplomatic decision of not knowing the maritime demarcation established with Chile at the beginning of last century.
Argentina has a Defence budget of 1.1% of its GDP. There is no data with regard to the country having carried out significant re-equipment programmes.
It is not a problem focused on Venezuela and its ever-unfriendly relationship with Colombia, the United States’ main ally in the region. The arms build-up is a problem in the region, which in the next few years will mean managing huge amounts of dollars to renovate equipment and adapting to the new needs imposed by this equipment.
**The problem with Chile**
A scenario is being prepared behind the plan of President Alan García’s government which Peruvian diplomacy and its Armed Forces see as likely in the medium term: Chile’s ignorance of the International Court of the Hague’s ruling regarding the disagreement of maritime limits that Lima maintains with Santiago. If the ruling favours the Peruvian side, Chile would loose an important and rich portion of sea which it currently considers its territorial sea and its Armed Forces could respond militarily to what they would consider as being a seizure.
For the majority of analysts, it is an unlikely scenario, the institutional character of Chilean democracy, in principal, would hinder any snatching of this type, however the huge arms purchase, the hazy process regarding belligerent equipment between both countries, the frustrated reconciliation processes between the Ministries of Defence and Foreign Affairs named two plus two, has created enormous distrust in relationships which in trade demonstrate an enviable and healthy relationship but which in the military and diplomatic sector face one of their lowest moments since Peru went to the Hague to resolve the border issue, a gesture described by Chile as regrettable.
The majority of governments have welcomed the Peruvian position, showing their commitment to analyse the issue in order to address it at the next UNASUR summit.
Argentina has already received the Peruvian delegation enthusiastically. Ecuador and Bolivia have shown their decision to support the Protocol proposed by Peru. Even Chile, which initially described the proposal as preposterous when they talked about a “Non Aggression Pact” whereas now they talk of Protocol, – a semantic issue – says Santiago, but which could mark the difference from what seems almost an impossible mission and which could be merely a gesture for the sake of it.
Latin America prioritising the battle against poverty and malnutrition above the waste in provisions for the soldiers would be an unprecedented recognition for strengthening UNASUR. The bets are against it.
Source: Radio Nederland
*(Translation provided by Rhona Desmond)*