The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) agreed over the week end to boost defence expending transparency to ensure regional stability which, according to Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador is threatened by a controversial military agreement between United States and Colombia.
Following two days of deliberations, defence ministers meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador, UNASUR decided to promote the initiative for which Argentina and Chile were committed to lead a task group to elaborate on a system to measure military expenditure in such a way that it can be compared.
“Transparency of policies and investments in the field of defence is part of a major mutual confidence building plan,” said Ecuadorian Defence Minister Javier Ponce, who admitted “it wasn’t difficult” to advance in the proposal.
“We have to exchange information on expenditure to develop adequate levels of cooperation in security and defence replacing the long established mistrust and fears about a potential aggression from one of the neighbours,” added Ecuadorian Security Minister Miguel Carvajal.
The overall strategy received the unanimous support from the twelve members defence ministers. Venezuela claims an agreement signed by Colombia allowing a limited number of United States troops in seven Colombian bases is directed by “imperialist” Washington to topple his regime. Colombia has argued that it is simply an extension of a treaty dating back to the fifties and seventies, with no aggression purposes. UNASUR members have demanded Colombia to reveal details of the agreement.
Colombia also points out that Venezuela must reveal its own defence and assistance treaties and programs with Cuba, Russia and Iran. Russia has become a main supplier of arms to Venezuela and Cuba has thousands of paramedics, teachers and security advisors working in the country.
Peru has repeatedly claimed the region is in the “wrong path” for having invested billions of US dollars in arms and equipment in the last few years.
Peru claims Chile has invested massively in revamping its forces, well beyond any defence purposes. Chile has taken advantage of the copper windfall to purchase British and Dutch frigates; French submarines, German tanks and US F 16 fighter jets.
Brazil has also embarked on a major program to update its armed forces and defence industry including the construction with French assistance of a nuclear powered submarine, together with several other conventional submersibles, to defend its rich oil deposits offshore along over 800 miles of its coast. In twenty years Brazil, as it plays a greater role in world politics, plans to increase the number of its armed forces from 350.000 to half a million.