Mérida, 11th May 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Defence ministers from Union of South American Nations (Unasur) member states met yesterday for the release of a report detailing each country’s military spending. Ministers and diplomats from the twelve nation regional bloc also pledged further military integration, proposing the creation of a Citizen Security Council.
The report, released by the Centre of Strategic Defence Studies (CEED), reveals the defence spending of each member country in the period 2006 – 2010.
The CEED supports the work of the South American Defence Council, a Unasur body which encourages cooperation in regional security matters, transparency in military spending, and provides assistance in peace missions and natural disasters.
The report shows that between 2006 - 2010 Unasur countries spent US $126 billion on defence. Accumulated spending increased sharply, from $17.6 billion in 2006 to $33.2 billion in 2010.
Brazil, the most populous country in the continent, headed the list, accounting for 43% of South America’s spending total. Colombia was second, with 17%, and Venezuela third, accounting for 10.7% of the Unasur’s military expenditure.
In 2009 Venezuela spent 1.4% of GDP on defence, placing it 5th in the region. According to the CIA World Factbook, the US spends around 4% GDP on its military, Colombia 3.4%, and Chile 2.7%.
Ecuadorian chancellor Ricardo Patiño commented on the importance for Unasur that member states share details of their defence spending “to establish ties of mutual trust” in the region.
The act of sharing such information is “historic” according to Unasur General Secretary Maria Emma Mejia, who argued that the report breaks both the myths of Latin American militarisation and that military spending is detrimental to social development.
“This spending supports the security and safety of South American citizens…because we can attend to citizens with logistics and emergency services. It is a benefit for social peace,” she said.
The report also said that 58.7% of member military spending was to pay personnel, 23.5% for operations, 17.3% for investment, and 0.5% for research.
At the meeting, held in Quito, Ecuador, representative of the UN General Secretary for Disarmament, Angela Klein, stated that the sharing of military spending information was “an exercise in transparency unseen in any other region of the world and a fundamental step in the construction of regional trust”.
Meanwhile in a meeting entitled Days of South American Strategic Thought, defence ministers and diplomats highlighted their intention to advance toward greater military integration through initiatives generating mutual trust, exchanging information and participating in joint military exercises.
The creation of a Citizen Security Council was also proposed to coordinate the fight against transnational and organised crime.
A meeting is scheduled for 5 June in Asuncion, Paraguay, to formalise the report and present its analysis by defence ministers.