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Sunday, September 17, 2006

COLUMN: JUST WHAT LATIN AMERICA NEEDED -- A NEW ARMS RACE

When key U.S. and Latin American policy makers met at The Miami Herald's Americas Conference last week, some of them raised eyebrows by raising an old issue they said is coming back -- a regional arms race.
''Latin America has begun a new arms race,'' Costa Rican President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias told the conference's opening night. In a later interview, he told me what should be done about it. Read the full column here. What do YOU think?

11 Comments:

Blogger Camilo Pino said...

True, beyond Latin America's left turn, there is a worrisome regional trend most analysts are overseeing: regional militarization.

A military build-up has taken place since the US lifted a ban to sale high-tech weapons in 2002.

Only in 2005 Colombia received close to US$ 643.3 million in American military and police aid.

Brazilian Air Force is investing heavily in modernization. Imports by the force increased by 177.5% in the first half of 2005 compared to the same period last year. That translates in US$ 34 billion in purchases for that period and a 20% increase from 2004. All due to the Brazilian Air Force Operational Recovery Program (PROFAB) implemented since 2002. Brazil already has the strongest regional air force.

Chile is buying 10 brand new F16 aircraft from the US and 18 second hand F16 from Holland for a total investment of US$745 million. Other ongoing Chilean acquisitions include two Spanish-French submarines, eight used Dutch-British war ships from Britain and 100 German Leopard tanks.

Venezuela is importing 100,000 Russian Kalashnikov assault rifles, and may import as any as 400,000 AK-47s. There are plans to buy up to 50 Russian MIG fighter aircraft. In addition, the regime is purchasing military hardware from Spain. Venezuela has also expressed interest in the development of nuclear energy for purely “peaceful purposes”. Some sales have been blocked by the US but Venezuela government will eventually get his military gear from other nations.

Sergey Svenchnikov, a representative from Russian state arms company Rosoboroneksport, put it this way in a recent visit to a weapons fair in Buenos Aires: "These countries' requirements for modern weapons are considerable. This is because the armed forces of most of the countries of this region intend to renew their armaments and military hardware in the very near future."

11:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Today's column left me scratching my head. You clearly made the case that Latin America actually underfunds its militaries compared to much of the world. The region is the lowest spender as a percentage of GDP. Chile, Brasil or Peru buying new fighters or armored vehicles hardly constitutes an arms race since they are replacing obsolete equipment that is being retired and their numbers hardly constitute any type of strategic threat to anyone. May I ask that we take a look at the peacekeeping force in Haiti who as we know are mainly composed of Latin American armies and ask if they need less funding and equipment.

With all due respect to President Arias Sanchez, his proposed solution is wishful thinking. Arming itself and prepare to defend its sovereignty is a legitimate function of government. Granted Latin American governments have less to worry about the intentions of their neighbors. This explains why they spend so much less on defense! But while we're on that subject let's be specific; does he actually propose that Colombia abolish its army? That Mr. Oppenheimer would be immoral! Disclaimer: I am Puert Rican living in Florida and have never been a soldier. Colombia has a moral obligation to defend its population against armed thugs who have no problem with murdering its own compatriates. Does President Arias actually propose Colombians surrender to the FARC thugs? President Uribe is right by fighting to win and if they want to negotiate the Colombian government will do it from a position of strength. If it takes ample help from the US, so be it.

The military as an institution has been discredited, underfunded and mistrusted in most Latin American countries over the past 20 years in many cases for obvious reasons. In terms of priorities defense already is and has been a low priority. If Haiti turns out to be a successful mission (despite its bumpy ride, so far so good!) this could be an indication how Latin American armies can be transformed and become institutions with a positive reputation and relevant in todays world. I certainly hope to see more Lain American armies being deployed to peacekeeping duties around the world. Maybe they will go with a reputation for good interoperability, professional/experienced leadership and a good track record (assuming the Haiti mission completes successfully). This will raise the profile of each country's foreign policy and give the armed forces meaning and purpose in this age. For this they need funding, training, leadership and public trust. Unfortunately the outlook doesn't look very promising here. Argentina its too busy making sure its current armed forces pay for the crimes and mistakes of its past members. This is the classic case of neglect and underfunding I'm refering to. In Brasil it looks better but underfunding is still an issue. Mexico could and should look at given its armed forces a better profile. Needless to say Cuba and Venzuela are a case apart. These armies are being or have been transformed to mere ideological toys at the service of miguided and ignorant leadership.

Mr. Oppenheimer please do your part to present an alternative, positive view of Latin America's armed forces. Ignoring and underunding them is not the answer. Abolishing them would b e criminal in some cases. Thank you.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Cariduro said...

Today's column left me scratching my head. You clearly made the case that Latin America actually underfunds its militaries compared to much of the world. The region is the lowest spender as a percentage of GDP. Chile, Brasil or Peru buying new fighters or armored vehicles hardly constitutes an arms race since they are replacing obsolete equipment that is being retired and their numbers hardly constitute any type of strategic threat to anyone. May I ask that we take a look at the peacekeeping force in Haiti who as we know are mainly composed of Latin American armies and ask if they need less funding and equipment.

With all due respect to President Arias Sanchez, his proposed solution is wishful thinking. Arming itself and prepare to defend its sovereignty is a legitimate function of government. Granted Latin American governments have less to worry about the intentions of their neighbors. This explains why they spend so much less on defense! But while we're on that subject let's be specific; does he actually propose that Colombia abolish its army? That Mr. Oppenheimer would be immoral! Disclaimer: I am Puert Rican living in Florida and have never been a soldier. Colombia has a moral obligation to defend its population against armed thugs who have no problem with murdering its own compatriates. Does President Arias actually propose Colombians surrender to the FARC thugs? President Uribe is right by fighting to win and if they want to negotiate the Colombian government will do it from a position of strength. If it takes ample help from the US, so be it.

The military as an institution has been discredited, underfunded and mistrusted in most Latin American countries over the past 20 years in many cases for obvious reasons. In terms of priorities defense already is and has been a low priority. If Haiti turns out to be a successful mission (despite its bumpy ride, so far so good!) this could be an indication how Latin American armies can be transformed and become institutions with a positive reputation and relevant in todays world. I certainly hope to see more Lain American armies being deployed to peacekeeping duties around the world. Maybe they will go with a reputation for good interoperability, professional/experienced leadership and a good track record. This will raise the profile of each country's foreign policy and give the armed forces meaning and purpose in this age. For this they need funding, training, leadership and public trust. Unfortunately the outlook doesn't look very promising here. Argentina its too busy making sure its current armed forces pay for the crimes and mistakes of its past members. This is the classic case of neglect and underfunding I'm refering to. In Brasil it looks better but underfunding is still an issue. Mexico could and should look at given its armed forces a better profile. Needless to say Cuba and Venzuela are a case apart. These armies are being or have been transformed to mere ideological toys at the service of miguided and ignorant leadership.

Mr. Oppenheimer please do your part to present an alternative, positive view of Latin America's armed forces. Ignoring and underunding them is not the answer. Abolishing them would b e criminal in some cases. Thank you.

6:06 PM  
Blogger roberto e said...

Just what we need indeed,
I see why Columbia needs the arms its in a struggle for its democratic life ,against the FARC and its supporters who are killers

As for the rest, they are over compensating for something else or satisfying those that need to

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In order to strength their economies G8 countries (USA, Russia, Germany, Japan, China, England, France and Canada) are selling more and more weapons.

Middle east is a clear example. Hezbollah and Hamas are fighting with Russian guns and Israel with Americans weapons. The real winners are USA and Russia!!!

In Latin America, we have differents situations:
Chile: They spend by law the 10% of their cupper earning in military arms. As another commodities the copper price is very high.
Venezuela: With trillons of dollars in oil reserves and a Bush ruling USA, even a Sister of Mercy would strength Venezuela's army. Is not a left or right decition, is just common sence.
Colombia: Uribe is a just a Bush soldier. Can we expect a different scenario?

Despite these situations, some good things are happening. Brazil, Argentina and Chile have scheduled commons military exercises, and are working together with the UN in Haiti.
This union could become our contribution to the regional peace.


Greetings.

Ruben P.
Rosario - Argentina

5:51 PM  
Blogger roberto e said...

To Mr R from my favorite LA nation

actually it would be nice to watch Latin American Nations do some
peace keeping in the region like in Haiti as opposed to fighting each other,
Maybe they can buy the arms with the dollars stolen by politicians or during LA private sector tax evasion season

can't blame Bush and US/Euro
neo-liberalism for everything,(even though I know you will try)
Best Regards

11:31 PM  
Blogger Samuel Logan said...

The irony embedded in an apparent arms race is that the threat to these nations - Venezuela, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Bolivia - is not at the nation-state level, where conventional weapons would serve well to defend national security. Transnational criminal enterprises such as Venezuela's National Guard, Colombia's FARC and AUC, Brazil's Red Command and First Capital Command, and Mexican drug traffickers in Peru and Bolivia, are the real threat to national security. Conventional weapons bought by nation-states are a waste of money. Yes, money must be spent on education and other development needs, but more attention needs to be placed on the very real presence of organized crime and its ability to rot countries from the inside out.

3:18 PM  
Blogger Mary MacElveen said...

Mary MacElveen: Is nothing Bush's fault in the dangerous world we're living in?

VHeadline.com commentarist Mary MacElveen writes: I first want to say after reading: Just what Latin America needed -- a new arms race, it did not surprise me that the author of this piece, Andres Oppenheimer would somehow connect former President Bill Clinton to this escalation since Disney/ABC released their docu-fantasy 'A Path to 9/11.'

Somehow, the main stream media must always blame Bill Clinton even though he has been out of the White House for six years.

It continues to amaze me how this mainstream media refuses to hold Bush's feet to the fire when it comes to the dangerous world we are all now living in. Is nothing Bush's fault?

I am not saying that Clinton was an angel ... but it is about time this present Bush administration accept some responsibility. Is that really asking too much of Bush?

In Mr. Oppenheimer's piece he cites the opinion of Costa Rica's president, Oscar Arias who "blamed the Clinton administration, which in 1997 lifted a 20-year-old ban on US sales of sophisticated weapons to Latin America that had been put in place by former president Jimmy Carter."

Let us all remember that it was a much different world back then, and one that did not see a country such as the United States illegally invade a guiltless country as we did with Iraq.

Let's remember that this illegal war was based on lies so that any country such as Venezuela must be on the alert since she too is an oil producing nation.

While Arias states, ''In 2004, Latin American nations spent a total of $24 billion on weapons and troops, an amount that represents an 8% increase in real terms over 10 years ago,'' that is a far cry from the amount of money that the US tax payers shell out to defend our country which is $441.6 billion in 2005 according to Wikipedia.org ... here is how these funds are allocated:

Operations and maintenance $124.3 billion
Military Personnel $108.8 billion
Procurement $79.1 billion
Research, Development, Testing & Evaluation $69.5 billion
Military Construction $12.2 billion
Department of Energy Defense Activities $17.0 billion

This does not include many military-related items that are outside of the Defense Department budget, such as nuclear weapons research, maintenance and production (which is in the Department of Energy budget), Veterans Affairs or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (which are largely funded through extra-budgetary supplements).

You will be astonished to see how much more we (the United States) spend compared to other countries combined.

The Associated Press reported on September 7 that the United States Senate "agreed to spend an additional $63 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan." It also stated "the bill now totals $469.7 billion. It grew by more than $16 billion during a debate that began in July before it was suspended during lawmakers' four-week August recess."

President Arias also stated that the, "region urgently needs to agree on a cap on military spending." I would surmise that every nation feels this way. Looking at the figures above that are being spent within the United States, I want a cap on our military spending.

In the case of Latin America, given our past actions, it is prudent for these nations to be on alert.

I want to remind President Arias and Mr. Oppenheimer that Venezuela is an oil producing nation just like Iraq. I would like to remind both of these men that Iran as well is an oil producing nation and presently they feel threatened by the United States. I want to remind both of these men what Bush stated to the Iraqi people just before the 'Shock and Awe' campaign ... and that was "Do not blow the oil fields"

Can they now see the concern of both of these nations as well as the rest of Latin America?

Bush lied to the citizens of the United States, the US Congress and to the world why he invaded Iraq: Can he do the same when it comes to any other nation?
More importantly, will the main stream media excuse those lies as well?

In Mr. Oppenheimer's article, he writes "Venezuela has purchased military aircraft from Brazil, combat helicopters and troop transport planes from Russia and Spain, and at least 100 AK-103s and AK-104s from Russia" ... that is nothing compared to the military hardware that we supply Israel in which they have roughly 400 nuclear warheads. I want to remind Mr. Oppenheimer that Venezuela does not have any nuclear capability. The United States even funded Israel to the tune of $280 million to fuel their fighter jets as they pummeled Lebanon and even paid out $48 million US tax dollars to repair a power plant in Palestine that Israel destroyed. I want my money back since I did not agree with Israel's pounding of both Palestine and Lebanon.

When Arias was asked: What should be done? His answer was "We should get our priorities right and begin to put education ahead of militarization."

I really wish that he would say that to Bush instead of the Latin American leaders. Last year, Bush and the Republican Party cut funds to student loans right before Christmas. As it stands, I pay more through my local taxes for education since funding by the federal government has decreased.

I invite everyone to see what could have been provided to their children's education in order to pay for the Iraq War ... you will be amazed.
While Bush has been fighting the war on terror in the Middle East, this is what is NOT being reported by the main stream press, but it has been reported by me in a previous VHeadline.com article "Vladimir Putin has sparked fears of a new arms race between Russia and the United States by deploying a nuclear ballistic strike force system that officials made clear could penetrate US anti- missile defenses."

I also reported that Russia now has "Topol-M missiles, which have a capacity for a one mega tonne impact -- 75 times the power of the 1945 Hiroshima bomb" in its stockpile. This new arms race has occurred on Bush's watch. It makes the military hardware that is presently owned by Latin America pail in comparison. So, why isn't the mainstream press and President Arias screaming about this?

Do I wish that military spending would decrease worldwide?

Of course I do, since I believe humanity can best be served by feeding the poor. But, in this dangerous world, I would like to ask President Arias: What would be the reaction of the citizens living within these Latin American countries if their government(s) were not able to defend their people?

Are they supposed to be pacifist in this dangerous world while other nations such as the United States increase their military spending?

If Arias believes that these nations, including Costa Rica, should just lay down their arms and let an invading force come in and kill the citizens of these countries, then he has no business leading that country.

Mary MacElveen
mary@vheadline.com

http://www.vheadline.com/MacElveen

3:58 PM  
Blogger Gabriel said...

Ruben, Your countries, with all their poverty, increase their military spending and you blame it on the US?

I guess the greed and avarice of your leaders is the gringo's fault too? In fact, is there anything you can't blame on the evil gringo?

11:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ohh sorry Gabriel. You are right!!!. Our intellectuals and politicians only blame and United State has never used the force against Latin America.

Mexico, Puerto Rico, Grenada, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Haiti, Cuba, Honduras, Dominicana, El Salvador, Virgin Islands and Guatemala are just few isolated examples of USA invasions.

Take an advice: read more about Latin America history.
I recommend you "The open veins..." by Eduardo Galeano.


Regards.

Ruben P.
Rosario - Argentina

11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gabriel,what are you talking about?
Do you have any idea of what is to
be in a US invasion of your country???

I lived that in 1989 and it was
horrible.My entire neighborhood was
torn down by the american bombs,November 20,1989.Many of my neighbors died and
some of them,we never heard from them. Their bodies never were
recovered.

On top of that,there was no food,
no water,and we had to live for
almost 2 years in shelters.

Is that you call your good U.S.A?Using the military force against
innocent countries like mine?

Gabriel,maybe you never have
lived an american invasion or
never had lived in Latin America
under those conditions.That is
why you talk like that.

7:15 AM  

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