Date of this Version
In 2009, South American military spending reached a total of $51.8 billion, a fifty percent increased from 2000 expenditures. The five-year moving average of arms transfers to South America was 150 percent higher from 2005 to 2009 than figures for 2000 to 2004. These figures and others have led some observers to conclude that Latin America is engaged in an arms race. Other reasons, however, account for Latin America’s large military expenditure. Among them:
- Several countries have undertaken long-prolonged modernization efforts, recently made possible by six years of consistent regional growth.
- A generational shift is at hand. Armed Forces are beginning to shed the stigma and association with past dictatorial regimes.
- Countries are pursuing specific individual strategies, rather than reacting to purchases made by neighbors. For example, Brazil wants to attain greater control of its Amazon rainforests and offshore territories, Colombia’s spending demonstrates a response to internal threats, and Chile is continuing a modernization process begun in the 1990s.
Concerns remain, however: Venezuela continues to demonstrate poor democratic governance and a lack of transparency; neighbor-state relations between Colombia and Venezuela, Peru and Chile, and Bolivia and Paraguay, must all continue to be monitored; and Brazil’s military purchases, although legitimate, will likely result in a large accumulation of equipment.
These concerns can be best addressed by strengthening and garnering greater participation in transparent procurement mechanism. The United States can do its part by supporting Latin American efforts to embrace the transparency process.
 Bromley, Mark, “An Arms Race in Our Hemisphere? Discussing the Trends and Implications of Military Expenditures in South America,” Brookings Institution Conference, Washington, D.C., June 3rd, 2010, Transcript Pgs. 12,13, and 16
 Robledo, Marcos, “The Rearmament Debate: A Chilean Perspective,” Power Point presentation, slide 18, 2010 Western Hemisphere Security Colloquium, Miami, Florida, May 25th-26th, 2010
 Yopo, Boris, “¿Carrera Armamentista en la Regiόn?” La Tercera, November 2nd, 2009, http://www.latercera.com/contenido/895_197084_9.shtml, accessed October 8th, 2010
 Walser, Ray, “An Arms Race in Our Hemisphere? Discussing the Trends and Implications of Military Expenditures in South America,” Brookings Institution Conference, Washington, D.C., June 3rd, 2010, Transcript Pgs. 49,50,53 and 54
 Ibid., Guevara, Iñigo, Pg. 22
 Ibid., Bromley, Mark, Pgs. 18 and 19
Porter, Bradley S., "Altered Landscape or Arms Race? Making Sense of Military Spending in South America" (2010). Western Hemisphere Security Analysis Center. 15.