Social Spending vs Armament: The Eternal Dilemma of Latin America and the Caribbean

Motivated by the fight against organized crime, the arms race resurfaces strongly in Latin America
Photo: REUTERS
24/06/2017
16:38
José Meléndez, corresponsal
Central America
-A +A

The government of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who is one of the most important Latin American clients of Russia's military industry, paid last year about USD$1.655.000 to Spanish providers for the purchase of anti-riot materials, according to a 2016 report of the Ministry of Economy, Industries, and Competitiveness of Spain.

The report, of which EL UNIVERSAL has a copy, confirmed that the final user of the exports carried out is the National Police of Nicaragua and proved that Peru and Bolivia are two other Latin American clients of Spain.

Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, and Paraguay are also on the list of Latin American buyers of Spanish "defense materials.Ecuador being the main customer last year, with USD$71.3 million.

But Spain's relationship with Latin America and the Caribbean for the supply of military and police equipment only reveals part of a particular phenomenon: the resurgence of the arms race in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), showed that the total military spending from Mexico, Cuba, Venezuela, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Argentina, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago rose from USD$54.84 billion in 2005 to USD$66.77 billion in 2015.

Motivated by the fight against organized crime, the arms race resurfaces strongly in the area with a variety of providers: United States, Russia, China, Taiwan, Spain, Chile, Holland, Canada, Japan, Israel, Great Britain, South Korea, Italy and France but also Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela or Chile in the same region.

The race was powered mainly by the US, with support from Israel, Spain, South Korea and Taiwan, among other suppliers.

Social debt

Although enemies are different, the situation maintains a deep social debt. A 2016 report by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), showed that there are about 175 million people living in different levels of poverty and the figure increased about 7 million in 2015.

"Governments still do not understand that it is preferable to buy tractors, books, violins, and medicines than rifles, machine guns, cannons, and tanks," said Costa Rican Lina Barrantes, executive director of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress.

Barrantes pointed out that Costa Rica eliminated its army in 1948, turning military headquarters into museums and cultural centers, and since the second half of the 20th century prioritized the spending on social development, education, health, and infrastructure. “Social inequality will never be fought with any type of weaponry. Never," assured Barrantes.

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