About 2.2 percent of all weapons purchased in the United States end up in Mexico, according to a statistical analysis by the Igarapé Institute and the University of San Diego Transborder Institute.
Brazil inaugurated a new shipyard and military base, which will host a plan, requiring investment of US$3.9 billion through 2017, to build and host five sumbarines (one of them nuclear) and 50 helicopters. The plan, carried out with French support, will produce the nuclear sub by 2023.
Brazil’s Embraer aerospace company won a U.S. contract to provide Afghanistan’s air force with 20 Super Tucano light air support aircraft. The contract is valued at US$427 million but could go as high as US$950 million.
Brazil’s defense ministry is recommending that the government buy Russian-made anti-aircraft systems: “We are interested in acquiring three batteries of medium level Pantsir-S1 missiles and two batteries of Igla missiles.”
Connecticut-based Sikorsky Aircraft, maker of the Blackhawk helicopter, “is tripling the size of its in-country Blackhawk maintenance service team in Colombia, as the company repairs seven helicopters.” With more than 60 of the helicopters, which cost at least US$15 million apiece, Colombia has the fourth-largest Blackhawk fleet in the world.
Of weapons that Colombian paramilitary members turned in during 2003-2006 demobilization ceremonies, the majority came from countries that have never officially sold arms to Colombia. The weapons’ top five countries of origin were the United States, Russia, Bulgaria, North Korea and China.
Canada is amending its Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL) to allow expanded military hardware sales to Colombia. According to the Canadian foreign ministry, the intent is to sell armored personnel carriers to Colombia’s military.
The French corporations DCNS and Thales have been carrying out a contract to modernize Colombian Navy frigates.
In 2012, according to Colombia’s defense ministry, in 2012 the country’s armed forces and police trained “3,252 foreign students in different areas, among them 24 Mexican and four Dominican pilots.”
With help from the U.S. Justice Department Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Guatemalan government’s National Forensic Sciences Institute can now use the “E-Trace” system, which determines whether recovered weapons were sold in the United States.
Ecuador paid US$10 million for 107 Hummer vehicles from the United States: 100 for its army and 7 for its navy.
Peru has ordered five Hovercraft amphibious patrol boats from the United Kingdom for about US$13 million. They will be used to “strengthen the fight against terrorism and narcotrafficking in the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM),” a region where conflict continues with remnants of the Shining Path guerrillas.
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) delivered a petition, developed in cooperation with more than a dozen human rights and anti-gun violence groups, to Vice-President Biden’s gun control task force. It was signed by 55,000 people from the United States and Mexico. A copy was also delivered to the American Embassy in Mexico City. The petition called for executive actions to curtail the rampant smuggling into Mexico of weapons purchased in the United States. Speaking to reporters at a separate event in Washington, ambassador Eduardo Medina Mora said, “The Second Amendment … is not, was never and should not be designed to arm foreign criminal groups.” President Obama’s Wednesday announcement of 23 actions he plans to take to address gun violence did not include any of the actions requested in the petition.
On Christmas Eve, Mexico City’s government launched a cash-for-weapons exchange program, “Por Tu Familia Desarme Voluntario” or “For your family: Voluntary disarmament.” Officials in charge of the program decided to extend the exchange past December 31 after 900 weapons were exchanged for cash, toys and tablet computers. Mexico’s Defense Department recognizes that only one of every 300 weapons circulating in the country is legal.
An Ecuadorian general said he has seen an increase in FARC arms-trafficking activity near the Colombian border since the process started. FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda denied it, saying the FARC are instead arming themselves with “much patience and many arguments” for the talks, and blaming “the extreme right in the continent taking shots at the peace process.”
Canada changed its Automatic Firearms Country Control List to allow the export of weapons and devices that are prohibited in Canada — such as fully automatic firearms — to Colombia. The change came after a recommendation by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird. Canada’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed objections based on concerns about armed conflict and human rights in Colombia.
Colombia’s Air Force increased its order to Airbus Military, a European military and defense manufacturer, from five C295 transport planes to six. Colombia has already received four of the planes and now awaits the arrival of two more. The first four cost 100 million euros (US$133 million).
(Written with assistance from WOLA Intern Elizabeth Glusman)
The military use of robotics, especially unmanned aerial vehicles or “drones,” is growing worldwide, and Latin America is participating fully in the trend. Countries are purchasing drones, and even developing their own, for a variety of purposes. For the most part, they are doing so without U.S. involvement.
Using secondary sources, WOLA Intern Anna Kroos put together this list of recent drone-related activity in the region.
Brazil, which spent $350 million for 14 Israeli drones in 2010 to monitor Amazon rainforest and border regions, “is now grappling with both the benefits and the Big Brother concerns.” For now, Brazil has suspended plans to use drones to monitor crime in favelas, due to air traffic control concerns.
For the first time, the Brazilian air force used drones to patrol its border with Bolivia. Brazilian police used images provided by the UAV to intercept a suspicious vehicle that tried to run an army roadblock. Part of the larger Operation Agata VI operation, the UAVs assist 7,500 soldiers deployed to reinforce Brazil’s borders with Bolivia and Peru against drug trafficking and smuggling. The troops are deployed for two weeks.
The Brazilian air force used drones for the first time in a training mission near the border-zone town of Cáceres. Two drones were used in a training mission implemented by the Federal Highway Police as part of Operation Agata VI, a joint army, navy, and air force mission in which fighter jets, combat helicopters, patrol boats, soldiers, and now drones are used to patrol the Brazilian borders with Peru and Bolivia.
Brazil’s Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, announced the end to Brazil’s two-week operation in which troops and drones were deployed along the Peruvian and Bolivian borders. The Minister reported the seizure of 1.1 tons of cocaine, 14 vehicles, 221 boats, and 8 arrests.
Brazil is trying out drones that could be used to track criminal activity in favelas. Drones, manufactured using Israeli technology, would be used to clear drug gang controlled favelas before the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Brazil has also donated drones to Bolivia to help find illegal coca plantations.
Brazil is beginning to operate 4 drones that were developed and constructed by engineers from the Istituo Militare Ingenieria (IME). Three will be used for security, surveillance, and remote monitoring while one will be used for environmental surveillance. The drones cost Brazil 180,000 reales (US$90,000). They plan on selling the models to other countries.
The foreign ministers of Argentina and Brazil are cooperating to produce drones to be used in the fight against drug trafficking and to protect borders. Using technology from Israel’s Elbit Systems, Brazil and Argentina will develop and sell drones.
The Chilean government announced that it will begin manufacturing drones, embarking on the next “generation of drones.” It plans to have 18 unmanned aircraft operational for the Chilean Air Force by March 2014. Authorities were reluctant to release this announcement, fearing that Peru and Bolivia will become threatened by this new tool of war. The drones will be used for military objectives but also for the search and rescue of people, and a tool in aiding forest fires. Chile already has an aircraft purchased in 2010 from Israel.
The Chilean military successfully tested the first drone developed in the country. It will be used for rescue tasks, monitoring rivers, volcanoes, and disasters. Funds are also being allocated for the development of 18 additional drones, operational by March 2014. The government has handled the news discreetly given the controversy with the United States’ use of drones in the Middle East, in addition to Bolivia’s apprehension about a stronger Chilean military. Though worry surrounds Chile’s new development, drones are becoming prominent in the region with Brazil’s purchase of 2 Hermes drones from Israel, and an expected 14 Heron to be completed before the World Cup and Olympics. Ecuador has 6 Heron, Venezuela 2 Iranian Mohajer. Possible legislation has been discussed that would force Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile to use drones only for peaceful purposes.
Chilean Minister of Defense Andrés Allamand confirmed Chile’s purchase of UAVs from Israeli company Elbit Systems. Allamand noted the drones will be used for border control, particularly on the Peruvian and Bolivian borders. They will be used to defend, but also to combat drug trafficking. Jorge Montoya, the former Chairman of the Peruvian joint chiefs, said this is important considering the drones’ ability to fly undetected and the ability to equip them with cameras and explosives.
Brazil and some Central American and Caribbean countries have expressed interest in acquiring Colombian drones and technology. Juan Carlos Pinzon, Colombia’s minister of defense, made the announcement at Expodefense, an international security exhibition in Bogota drawing 100 domestic and foreign companies. Previously drones were only used to protect economic infrastructure, like pipelines; now they will be able to adapt to military attacks as well. Colombia first acquired drones from the United States in 2006 to help find 3 U.S. citizen contractors held hostage by the FARC.
Expodefense, in its third year, brought in 67 international and 27 Colombian vendors in attempts to establish itself as a reference in Latin American defense technology. The exhibition provided the context for Colombia to announce its future use of drones for military. Colombia’s security budget reflects this desire for development, with $14,426,000 allocated to defense and security. Colombia wishes to develop its drone technology similar to Korea’s and Israel’s development.
Colombia announced its intention to begin developing drones for military use. Up to this point, drones were used strictly for civilian missions like monitoring pipelines often attacked by FARC, hostage rescue efforts, and general surveillance. The government was vague on whether the drones are fully equipped for combat operations.
Noting the use of U.S. drones in Colombia in 2006 for use in a U.S. hostage situation, the article documents the recent use of the drones to gather information on FARC and to track drug traffickers. Moving from civilian use of drones to military use, Colombia looks to the Israeli firm Elbit to purchase $50 million armed Hermes 900.
Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón and Ehud Barak, Pinzón’s Israeli counterpart, met in April to discuss Colombia’s purchase of drones from Israel. Pinzón discussed the desire for drones as an effort to “continue strengthening the military capacity of Colombia.” The drones will be used to fight transnational crime.
Pinzón and Barak are negotiating Colombia’s possible purchase of drones from Israel. Limitations and restrictions are being placed on the possible transaction. The two defense ministers are also working to create a “strategic dialogue, share information, share doctrine, and have a dialogue more permanent than a business relationship.”
U.S. and Colombian officials are negotiating Colombia’s attainment of drones and spy helicopters. Colombia justifies their need for drones as the quickest and most effective way to implement “Espada de Honor,” a strategy to combat FARC. Colombia wants 10 Black Hawk Helicopters and an uncertain number of drones. The U.S. government is reluctant, and Colombian officials must convince Washington that the drones are necessary.
The United States supplied Colombia surveillance drones for counterterrorism, then-U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William B. Wood states in documents released by WikiLeaks. The drones were initially sent to support U.S. hostage rescue efforts but the document noted that they could also be used to combat terrorists and interdict drugs on rivers.
Janet Napolitano, U.S. secretary of homeland security, visited the Dominican Republic in July to sign an agreement allowing the Dominican Republic to use drones to track drug cartels who cross Dominican territory to transport drugs to Puerto Rico.
The Dominican Republic will be using drones to monitor and fight drug trafficking. Monitoring the maritime region between Venezuela/Colombia and the Dominican Republic, drones will promote maritime vigilance similar to technology used on the U.S.-Mexico border. Local staff will be trained by U.S. specialists.
Mexico is building drones, similar to the ones the U.S. government uses to monitor the border. The drones will be used in floods, natural disasters and to combat organized crime. So far they have 3 aircraft with the latest technology and are designing two models, a larger model with an undercarriage and a mini model to be used in the field.
Peru’s air force (FAP) has developed an unmanned aircraft with electronic warfare using 100% domestic technology. It will continue to develop drone technology in 2012 hoping to develop an autonomous aeronautics industry. The FAP hopes to develop 12 more aircraft and continue developing drone technology to strengthen its deterrent capability, allowing for civic action flights to remote villages on the Amazon and the border; the FAP also hopes to use this development in a technology transfer.
Peru has developed three different kinds of drones for use in intelligence gathering. The FAP, under Carlos Ocio, began its own research in 1999 successfully developing one prototype before unsuccessfully crashing another. The program was revived in 2004 under the name Condor Project developing a FLIR (forward-looking infrared) system, equipped with four cameras. The program lacked funding so it wasn’t until CONCYTEC and Comando Conjunto formed an association before all 3 models were successfully developed.
The Peruvian air force (FAP) will coordinate with the National Council for Science and Technology and Technological Innovation (CONCYTEC) to begin producing drones. They hope to mass produce the drones with the hope of financing the venture.
President Hugo Chávez announced that Venezuela had captured a plane, presumably carrying drugs, on the Colombian border; the plane was detected by a drone Venezuela developed with Iran. The government highlighted the use of the drones, saying it “helped a lot.” The drone was built in June for the “defensive power of the nation” and as Julio Morales Prieto, president of Cavim (Venezuelan military industrial corporation) noted, it is the second best in South America and will be used for reconnaissance.
In cooperation with Russia, China, and Iran, Venezuela developed 3 drones, manufactured in the country with training and technology from Iran. The drones, equipped only with cameras, are for the purpose of safeguarding national security and to monitor rivers. President Chávez and the government highlight the benefit of drones in dangerous or inaccessible places and note the necessity of modernizing the military. Venezuela joins other South American countries Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia, which have contracted to obtain drones, as well as Argentina, Mexico, and Peru which developed their own. Chávez denounces the United States’ criticism of this development, noting the double standard in American use of armed drones in Afghanistan.
The announcement of Venezuela’s development of drones comes at the same time the U.S. government seeks to limit Iran’s influence in Latin America. The Venezuelan drones, developed with Iranian technology, were being investigated by the U.S. prior to Chavez’s announcement on June 13, 2012. Venezuela maintains the use of the drones is solely defensive.
Venezuela contracted with Russia to develop drones, among other defense projects funded with US$4 billion in credits from Russia, said Gen. Julio César Morales, head of the state defense industry corporation (CAVIM), the drones’ manufacturer. President Chávez expressed the need to consolidate defensive power in order to ensure the independence of Venezuela.
Chavez announced that with the support of Iran, Russia, and China, Venezuela has its first drone for military and civilian use, and affirms that it will begin exportation. They have already manufactured 3 drones and will continue to manufacture for defense, reconnaissance, and to protect pipelines, forests, roads, and dams. The parts are made in Venezuela and assembled by military engineers trained in Iran.
On August 24, 2012, the Congressional Research Service released its annual report (PDF) on conventional arms transfers to the developing world from 2004-2011. This report provides an account of the level of arms transfers by major weapons suppliers to countries in the developing world. Written by Richard Grimmett and Paul Kerr, this report is often referred to as the "Grimmett Report."
According to this year's report, trends in arms transfer agreements (represent orders for future delivery) with and actual arms deliveries to developing nations were on the rise in 2011. Total arms transfer agreements were valued at $71.5 billion in 2011, a substantial increase from $32.7 billion in 2010, with the United States and Russia dominating the list of suppliers in the world market. The value of all arms deliveries to the developing nations was $28 billion, "the highest total in these deliveries values since 2004."
The current trend in the Latin American market, as noted by the CRS, shows countries seeking strategic modernization of their military. The report attributes the selectivity of these purchases to constraints by financial resources.
A few developing nations in Latin America ... have sought to modernize key sectors of their military forces. In recent years, some nations in these regions have placed large arms orders, by regional standards, to advance that goal. Many countries within these regions are significantly constrained by their financial resources and thus limited to the weapons they can purchase. Given the limited availability of seller-supplied credit and financing for weapons purchases, and their smaller national budgets, most of these countries will be forced to be selective in their military purchases.
Within the region, Brazil and Venezuela continue to dominate as the leading recipients of arms agreements, ranking 4th and 6th in the developing world, respectively, for the period of 2008-2011. This demonstrates a significant change from the previous four years, particularly with Brazil, which did not rank within the top ten from 2004-2007.
In terms of actual deliveries, however, Venezuela is the only Latin American country in the top ten list, ranking eighth with the value of deliveries from 2008 to 2011 totaling $4 billion. When 2011 is pulled out of the four year time frame, Venezuela moves up to fifth place ($1.7 billion in total delivery value), after Saudi Arabia ($2.8 billion), India ($2.7 billion), Pakistan ($1.8 billion) and the United Arab Emirates ($1.7 billion), even though it did not appear in the top ten list for total value of arms transfer agreements made in 2011.
From 2008-2011, France surpassed Russia in the total value of arms transfer agreements signed with Latin American countries. In this time period, 34.69% of the total value of agreements with Latin American countries were signed with France, 31.46% with Russia, and 10.45% with the United States. France's jump to first place indicates a significant increase in the value of their agreements with Latin America, from $500 million between 2004-2007 to $8.6 billion between 2008-2011, more than 17 times the previous four years. (By comparison, Russia's agreements with Latin America totaled $7.8 billion and the United States' agreements totaled $2.59 billion). One more way of looking at it - 49.71% of all arms transfer agreements made by France with countries in the developing world between 2008-2011 were with Latin American countries.
The CRS report distinguishes between arms transfer agreements made and actual deliveries. As indicated above, the report shows France as the supplier entering into the highest total value of agreements with countries in Latin America. However, when looking at actual deliveries of arms, Russia maintains the number one spot, $3.1 billion in total arms deliveries from 2008-2011, while France only delivered $500 million during the same time period ($8.1 billion less than the total value of agreements made). The authors of the report indicate that Venezuela is Russia's principal focus in the region. According to the report's authors, "With the strong support of its President Hugo Chavez, Venezuela has become Russia's major new arms client in this region."
Perhaps the most striking fact outlined by the CRS was the shift in the categories of weapons delivered between the two time periods. From 2004-2007, tanks and self-propelled guns lead with 140 units being supplied primarily by Major Western Nations (120). During the period of 2008-2011, we see both a change in major supplier and category. While tanks and self-propelled guns retained its importance, surface to air missiles topped the rankings at 3,120 units delivered, (3,070 from Russia), up from 0 in the previous four years. APCs and armored cars also saw a noted increase in deliveries (80 to 509).
The report's authors do make note that care must be taken when looking at the numbers and categories of weapons delivered. According to the authors, while the data on actual transfers of military equipment is useful in showing "relative trends in the delivery of important classes of military equipment and indicate who the leading suppliers are from region to region over time," it is limited as it does not give "detailed information regarding either sophistication or the specific name of the equipment delivered." Nor does the data "provide an indication of the relative capabilities of the recipient nations to use effectively the weapons delivered to them."
This blog was written by Abigail Poe and Aapta Garg.
The Department of State released its portion of the Section 655 Annual Military Assistance Report for Fiscal Year 2010. This report, as required by Section 655 of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended, covers defense articles and defense services licensed for permanent export under the Direct Commercial Sales (DCS) program. The State Department's DCS program, which regulates private U.S. companies' overseas sales of weapons and other defense articles, defense services and military training, is not to be confused with the Defense Department's Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program, which manages government-to-government sales.
While we were happy to see the report released relatively close to its February due date, we were surprised to see that the level of detail of reporting has decreased significantly. Previous reports aggregated the data by U.S. Munitions List (USML) sub-category, but the FY2010 report only provides the quantity and value for the USML category and does not provide additional detail about the types of firearms, submersible vessels, vessels of war, tanks, and more licensed for export. You can see the previous level of detail provided on the Just the Facts database (the linked example is for Colombia, but you can see the details for other countries by clicking on a country name or dollar amount on this table). We'll be uploading the new FY2010 numbers to the Direct Commercial Sales database soon, but so far, it appears that the total value of exports licenses issued to the entire region in 2010 decreased by a little over $500 million, from $1.697 billion in 2009 to $1.029 billion in 2010.
The Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs' Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight released a report (PDF) that examines State Department and Defense Department spending on contracts to supply counternarcotics assistance to governments in Latin America from 2005 to 2009. CIP Intern Claire O'Neill McCleskey summarized the report’s findings on the Just the Facts blog. The report critiques the lack of transparency, inadequate oversight, and monopolization by large contractors.
The Global Commission on Drug Policy, a high-level commission that includes former heads of state and former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, released a report last week in which they declared the war on drugs a failure. The study urges "experimentation by governments with models of legal regulation of drugs," adding: "This recommendation applies especially to cannabis, but we also encourage other experiments in decriminalization and legal regulation."
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) released its 2011 Yearbook, which includes a chapter on military expenditures. According to the new report, military spending worldwide grew most rapidly in South America, by 5.8%, compared to the global rise in military expenditure of 1.3%. As Adam Isacson notes in his blog highlighting interesting aspects of the report, “the US$63.3 billion spent by South America is slightly above that spent by France alone, and represents only 4% of the total global expenditure.” Click here to download the most recent Just the Facts podcast, in which Adam Isacson and Lucila Santos talk to Carina Solmirano, co-author of the Yearbook’s chapter on global military spending.
The mano dura (iron first) anti-crime approaches that have been employed by many governments in the region don’t work.
Policymakers must take into account that social, political, and economic exclusion are the context in which crime and violence take root.
Citizens whose daily lives are most affected by violence must be involved in designing and implementing solutions for their communities.
The Center for International Policy’s TransBorder Project released a new report last week. “Policy on the Edge: Failures of Border Security and New Directions for Border Control” examines the failures, waste and misdirection of the border security operations of the Department of Homeland Security. The report recommends “that charts the way forward through regulatory solutions--for immigration, drugs, gun sales, border management--that are more pragmatic, effective and cost-efficient than current policies.” Download the report as a PDF.
Carina Solmirano, a researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), talked to Adam Isacson and Lucila Santos about military expenditure in Latin America following the release of SIPRI Yearbook 2011.
Subscribe to the "Just the Facts" podcast here and on iTunes. Thank you for listening.
Colombia’s FARC guerrillas released hostage Marcos Baquero (kidnapped June 2009) on Wednesday. As of this writing (Friday), they have just released Armando Acuña (May 2009) and Henry López (May 2010). On Sunday, they are to release Guillermo Solórzano (June 2007) and Salín Sanmiguel (May 2008). While the unilateral releases have led some analysts to speculate about peace prospects, the FARC’s kidnapping of two paper-company workers on Thursday in Cauca puts a damper on things.
Meanwhile Colombia’s Free Country Foundation, an NGO founded by former Vice President Francisco Santos, found the first annual increase in kidnapping in the country since 2002: a 32 percent jump in kidnappings from 2009 (213) to 2010 (282).
On a visit to Central America and Colombia, Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield spoke of a plan to provide Central American countries with $200 million in new assistance to combat drug trafficking and the influence of Mexican cartels. Brownfield also mentioned a desire to create “synergies” and a “single umbrella” to cover U.S. aid to Mexico (the Mérida Initiative), Central America (the Central America Regional Security Initiative) and Colombia (the Colombia Security and Development Initiative, a successor to Plan Colombia).
Speaking in Utah on Monday, the U.S. Army’s number-two civilian official was asked about America’s “strategic blind spots.” He replied:
One of them in particular for me is Latin America and in particular Mexico. As all of you know, there is a form of insurgency in Mexico with the drug cartels that’s right on our border. This isn’t just about drugs and about illegal immigrants. This is about, potentially, a takeover of a government by individuals who are corrupt.
After Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the term “insurgency” to describe Mexico’s violence in September, President Obama walked back her comments a bit. Similarly, Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal took back his statements the next day after they stirred an outcry from the Mexican government.
For the first time in years, Venezuelan authorities announced the national homicide rate: 48 murders for every 100,000 citizens. This is higher than Colombia (34) and about the same as Guatemala (46).
Brazil has long been considering a multi-billion-dollar purchase of high-tech fighter aircraft, which would be the biggest arms sale to Latin America since – well, probably ever. The Lula government had been leaning toward a purchase of French jets, due mainly to French promises of technology transfers. The new government of Dilma Rousseff, however, indicated to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner – who paid a visit to Brazil Monday – that it was now leaning toward a U.S.-made model, Boeing’s F-18. Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim, who served under Lula but stayed in his post, is reportedly considering resigning out of disagreement with the new government’s preference.
Brazil may be near another big arms buy: a 2.9-billion-pound (US$4.64 billion) purchase of warships from the United Kingdom. This after a major deal from France last year, which includes a nuclear-powered submarine.
Sometime in the past 24 hours or so, the State Department posted to its website the Foreign Military Training Report for 2009 (see our post on the recently released 2008 report). At first glance, it’s a bit surprising to see no significant increase in training to Mexico. More details and analysis of this data-rich report will be coming soon.
A Republican push for ratification of pending free trade agreements with Colombia included a floor statement by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), a report issued by Senate Foreign Relations Committee ranking minority member Richard Lugar (R-Indiana), and a hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee. At the latter, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk “declined to commit to bringing the Colombia and Panama agreements to Congress within six months.”
Meanwhile, because of a larger trade impasse in the U.S. Congress, Colombia and Ecuador are to lose their preferential access to the U.S. market when the Andean Trade Preferences and Drug Elimination Act (ATPDEA) expires this weekend. The longstanding measure, which is repeatedly renewed, is likely to be passed next week.
A summit of Latin American and Arab leaders is scheduled to be held in Lima next week, but may be delayed by the political upheaval in Egypt. (UPDATE: AP Andean Bureau Chief Frank Bajak tweets that the summit has been postponed indefinitely.)
“While drug violence continues to spread in Mexico,” reports NBC News, “White House officials have decided the situation doesn’t rank as an ‘emergency’ under federal rules,” because doing so would mean angering the U.S. gun lobby and requiring border-state gun shops to report large purchases of assault rifles. Thus this small measure to slow the flow of weapons to Mexico’s cartels will have to wait several more months.
Opposition legislators now have over a third of seats in Venezuela’s National Assembly. Things are so polarized that, even though the new legislature began in early January, this week saw a mass fistfight break out on the floor of the chamber.
Recommended (in Spanish): University of Miami Professor Bruce Bagley, a renowned expert on U.S. policy toward the Andes, has a two-part series about the war on drugs at the Colombia-based “Razón Pública” website.
A Sukhoi fighter plane, one of Venezuela's recent arms purchases from Russia.
On September 10 the Congressional Research Service, the research arm of the U.S. Congress, released its annual report on arms transfers to the developing world This report is rather unique: relying on U.S. intelligence data, it estimates arms sales from all suppliers worldwide, combining the United States and other countries.
Entitled “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations” (PDF), it is often referred to as the “Grimmett Report” after its author, CRS researcher Richard Grimmett. The latest report covers arms transfers from 2002 to 2009.
Due to the global economic crisis, the report found a small drop in arms-purchase agreements to developing countries in 2009. The United States and Russia, however, continue to dominate the market.
The value of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations in 2009 was $45.1 billion, a decrease from the $48.8 billion total in 2008. … Recently, from 2006-2009, the United States and Russia have dominated the arms market in the developing world, with both nations either ranking first or second for all four years in terms of the value of arms transfer agreements. From 2006-2009, the United States made $68.7 billion of these agreements, or 36.7% of them. During this same period, Russia made $42.4 billion, 23.8% of all such agreements, expressed in constant 2009 dollars. Collectively, the United States and Russia made 62.4% of all arms transfer agreements with developing nations during this four year period.
Latin America’s arms purchases lag behind those of developing countries in Asia and the Near East. The report, however, finds a very sharp growth in Latin American countries’ agreements to buy new weapons. Comparing the last two four-year periods (2002-2005 and 2006-2009), CRS documents a fourfold increase.
Regional Arms Transfer Agreements by Supplier, 2002-2009 (Millions of current U.S. dollars)
The table shows 80% growth in U.S. arms sales agreements to Latin America between these four-year periods. But the country that contributed most heavily to the increase is Russia, which was by far Latin America's greatest weapons supplier between 2006 and 2009. Russian arms transfer agreements to Latin America increased by 1,750 percent between 2002-2005 and 2006-2009.
During the 2006-2009 period, the United States in fact drops to third place among Latin America's top arms suppliers. Russia sold the region 46.78% of its weapons, France captured 26.55% of the market, and the United States accounted for 10.23% of the region's arms purchases. This is down from a 23.65% market share in 2002-2005.
Latin America, in fact, is now France's largest regional market for weapons in the developing world: fully 44.06 percent of France's arms sales agreements to developing countries in the 2006-2009 period went to Latin America, compared to 33.57% to the Near East and 22.38% to Asia. While 27.41% of Russia's developing-country arms sales went to Latin America, it sold still more to Asia and the Near East. The United States, by contrast, makes only 3.64% of its developing-country arms sales to Latin America.
Who in Latin America is buying these Russian and French weapons? Mainly Venezuela and Brazil, the only Latin American countries on the Grimmett report's list of the developing world's top ten arms-buyers between 2002 and 2009. Venezuela is fifth in the world with US$12.7 billion worth of weapons purchase agreements during those eight years; Brazil is ninth with US$8.6 billion.
Looking just at 2009, though, yields a remarkable result: Brazil and Venezuela are number one and two in the entire developing world.
Latin America's predominance on the 2009 list may be temporary; the global economic crisis did not hit the region as badly as it did most others. Nonetheless, the world's arms suppliers are clearly pursuing the Latin American market more aggressively -- and the United States is no longer the supplier of choice.
On a March 2008 visit to Washington, Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim announced an intention to create a South American Defense Council (SADC), a body “based on the principles of non-intervention, sovereignty and territoriality.” Jobim then toured the region to get support for the SADC initiative.
Despite doubts that countries like Venezuela and Colombia could agree on common defense and security goals, the Council’s creation was approved in December 2008, in an extraordinary summit in Brazil, where the Statute of the UNASUR SADC was signed.
The Statute defines the Council’s main aims as:
1. Consolidating South America as a zone of peace, a base for democratic stability and the integral development of our peoples, and a contribution to world peace.
2. Creating a South American identity in defense issues, incorporating the subregional and national characteristics that strengthen unity between Latin America and the Caribbean.
3. Generating consensus to strengthen regional cooperation on defense issues.
The SADC is made up of the defense ministers of UNASUR’s 12 country members, who carry out annual ordinary meetings. (UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations, is a regional cooperation body founded in 2008, the result of a process that began in 2004.) The Council has an executive body, made of the region’s vice-ministers of defense. The Presidency, charged with coordinating its activities, is exercised by the country that holds UNASUR’s pro tempore presidency – currently, Ecuador.
So far, there have been only two ordinary meetings of the SADC. The first, held in Chile, produced the Santiago de Chile Declaration (March 2009), which introduced several initiatives: to foster cooperation in defense issues; to overcome differences in military expenditure; to become a dialogue platform for conflicts between its members; and to coordinate every nation’s external security. The Declaration introduced a 2009-2010 Action Plan, based on four elements: defense policies and military cooperation; humanitarian actions and peace operations; defense industry and technology; and military education and training.
The IX Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas (CDMA), a regional dialogue process begun with heavy U.S. support in 1995, will take place in Bolivia in November. It will be interesting to note whether South American defense ministries elect to use the SADC framework to coordinate their positions at the CDMA. There is a possibility that, at the meeting, the SADC countries will propose transparency standards for defense expenditure and defense budgets — an issue of ever greater importance amid ever greater concerns about rising regional arms purchases.
As one of its goals in the “defense policies” area, the 2009-2010 Action Plan seeks greater sharing information about defense expenditures and economic indicators of defense. As a result, an Extraordinary Meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense of UNASUR took place on November 27, 2009. Participants signed a resolution establishing security and confidence-building measures (CBMs), with specific implementation measures and guarantees:
1.Exchange of information and transparency in defense systems. This includes the
creation of a network for:
the exchange of information regarding defense policies;
information on military forces: troops, weapons and equipment;
setting up an Information Bank of the UNASUR countries to register the transfer and procurement of equipment and conventional weapons;
A confidential mechanism of “notification and registration before UNASUR of the full text of the intraregional and extra-regional cooperation agreements in matters of defense and security once these are approved.” This goal appears to address the fears and tension created after the news about a defense agreement between Colombia and the United States were leaked to the press.
2.Exchange of information and transparency on defense expenditures. This includes initiatives “to report on defense expenditures from the previous fiscal year” and “to send the defense budgets of the last 5 years to the South American Defense Council on a gradual basis.”
3.Exchange of information and transparency about military maneuvers and exercises.
“a. to notify in advance, the bordering member countries and UNASUR about any intended military maneuvers, deployments or exercises at the borders, in a timely fashion … including the number of troops, location in respect to the borders, nature and amount of equipment to be used;”
“b. to notify UNASUR about the development of joint military exercises, whether with regional or extra-regional countries;”
“d. to establish communication mechanisms between military forces in the borders with the purpose of coordinating and informing about their activities.”
4. Interestingly, in the section on “Measures in the Field of Security,” the resolution reiterates the member countries’ “most vehement rejection of all ruptures of constitutional and democratic law and any attempt of coup d’état,” and “their determination not to recognize governments that emerge from coups d’état or that alter the constitutional law.” This is a clear reference to Honduras.
5. Under “Compliance and Verification,” the resolution proposes “to develop a voluntary mechanism of visits to military facilities with the purpose of promoting exchange of information and experiences related to border control strategies, methods and policies.”
6. Finally, UNASUR deems it important “to invite the government of the United States of America to a dialogue in relation to the strategic matters of defense, peace, security and development.” This meeting has not happened yet.
Following up on this, regional leaders at the second ordinary meeting of the SDC, in May 2010, approved the Declaration of Guayaquil. This document:
1. “Approved the procedures to implement the confidence-building and security measures”
agreed at earlier meetings.
2. Set up a working group, led by Argentina, Chile and Peru, “to develop a methodology to address technical and design elements of the system for measuring defense expenses in our countries … in order to promote the issue of transparency in defense expenses.”
Although we have yet to see concrete, tangible results of these declarations and action plans, it is worth highlighting the coherence and continuity in the objectives that the SADC is following. This generates expectations of success for the SADC in defense and security matters in South America and the rest of the hemisphere.
This is especially important considering political tensions in the Andean region, which have had so far some military, defense and regional security implications. The SADC at least generates a space for debate and dialogue between the countries of this sub-region, particularly Colombia and Venezuela. The upcoming IX CDMA in November will most certainly present a good opportunity for the SADC to prove the utility of its existence and work. We hope it does so.
Polls for the second and final round of Colombia’s presidential elections, scheduled for June 20, have pro-government candidate Juan Manuel Santos leading former Bogotá mayor Antanas Mockus by a 2-1 margin. Read my analysis of Colombia’s first-round elections at the OpenDemocracy.net website. Links to much more coverage of Colombia’s election campaign are here.
Colombian President Álvaro Uribe lashed out last week against a prosecutor who, apparently in error, issued a citation to investigate Gen. Freddy Padilla de León, the chief of the country’s armed forces, for alleged involvement in human rights abuses. “I raise my voice in opposition to the accusations against Gen. Padilla de León. They [the accusers] are useful idiots of terrorism who do nothing more than make false accusations. … Terrorism wants to win by acting through scribblers who want to truncate the Democratic Security policy’s advances.”
Last Friday’s Washington Post led with a report on the Obama administration’s expanding use of Special Operations Forces troops worldwide. “Special Operations forces have grown both in number and budget, and are deployed in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year.” In The Nation, Jeremy Scahill adds that these countries, in Latin America, have included Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay and Peru.
Here is a transcript and video of Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela’s briefing on Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s visit to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Barbados.
Bolivian President Evo Morales called on the armed forces to be more involved in counternarcotics, asking them “to prepare a strategy for the fight against narcotrafficking to guard national sovereignty against foreign interests, principally the United States.” The commander of the Bolivian Army’s U.S.-aided 8th Division responded that his unit has already been involved in counternarcotics for many years.
“The U.S. Southern Command's (Southcom) Joint Task Force Haiti officially completed its mission today marking the end of Operation Unified Response,” reported Southern Command. About 500 National Guard troops remain in Haiti carrying out humanitarian assistance exercises. Much remains to be done in Haiti, a Washington Posteditorial recalls.
Recent arms transfers news: Venezuela will buy K-8 aircraft from China for US$82 million. Argentina will study the possibility of developing nuclear-propelled naval vessels. Brazil, working with France, already has an US$8 billion project to develop a nuclear-powered submarine, scheduled to go online in 2021. The Brookings Institution and the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies held a conference last week entitled “An Arms Race in Our Hemisphere”; Brookings has made available audio of the event, including my presentation.
A project of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund in cooperation with the Center for International Policy and the Washington Office on Latin America
Project Staff: Adam Isacson (Senior Associate WOLA aisacson[at]wola.org) / Abigail Poe (Deputy Director CIP abigail[at]ciponline.org) / Lisa Haugaard (LAWGEF Executive Director lisah[at]lawg.org) / Joy Olson (WOLA Executive Director jolson[at]wola.org)