Latin American governments are investing in military infrastructure in a bid to modernize defense systems and combat a range of security challenges, from drug trafficking to natural disasters. This month, for example, Honduras asked the United States for security assistance to address violence and organized crime driving emigration, in a scheme that would mirror Plan Colombia. Also, in mid-July, the Chinese and Russian presidents toured Latin America, fortifying regional economic and security ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner agreed to a mutual effort developing military technology; Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff agreed to continue negotiations to acquire Russian anti-aircraft systems.
According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military spending climbed steadily over the last decade, but 2013 data reveals a 1.9 percent drop from the previous year. However, Latin America actually saw an increase in military spending over this period, rising 2.2 percent. SIPRI found that some of the smallest military budgets rose by the highest percentages in the region, including that of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay.
Increased spending in Paraguay allowed the country to acquire equipment for the army and to open its first Emergency Operations Center, a military base to respond to natural disasters. Nicaragua created new security forces, established new bases to fight transnational crime, and beefed up coastal surveillance, and in Honduras, a portion of the expenses went toward drug trafficking interception, including radar technology. Meanwhile, Brazil—the region’s lead spender—reduced military expenses by approximately $1.5 billion, a 3.9 percent decline from 2012. The cut was part of the government’s initiative to cut costs to try to reach its surplus target for the fiscal year.
AS/COA Online breaks down the numbers for a closer look at regional trends.