The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a British research institute focusing on international security, revealed that Russia in 2009 became the main exporter of weapons to Latin America thanks to the purchases made by Venezuela, but also to Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Colombia.
However, two of the countries with the largest defence budgets, Colombia and Mexico, remain faithful to US military arms, while other countries have diversified suppliers.
The report says that Russia, which was the world's second largest arms supplier in 2008, has signed military agreements with Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia.
Venezuela, which in 2007 became the second largest buyer of Russian weapons has purchased in the last few years military equipment worth 4 billion USD, said the report.
The IISS report “Military Balance 2010” points out that in spite of a slight drop in sales to the region, Russia last year consolidated as the main supplier of military technology, “a tendency which is expected to continue in coming years”.
Russian sales to the region last year totalled 5.4 billion US dollars and Moscow signed contracts with Venezuela, Peru, Mexico, Brazil and Colombia and are in negotiations with Bolivia, Uruguay and Ecuador.
Russia also extended credit facilities to Venezuela to the tune of 2.2 billion USD in exchange for Russian corporations having a share in the development of the rich Venezuelan oil, gas and tar fields.
Venezuela is interested in the purchase of 100 T-72 heavy tanks and Smerch missile launchers, according to IISS. More into the future, possibly a multi-level air defence system that includes Tor M-1, S3’’, Buk-M2 and Pechora.
IISS points out that defence expenditure in Latinamerica has increased to 58.448 billion USD in 2008 equivalent to 1.35% of GDP, from 39.073 billion USD in 2006. Brazil’s defence modernization program had a significant influence in the latest data.