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Leaders of Latin American nations have embarked on record military spending, while their citizens face the worst level of poverty in years.
Tension between neighboring countries and the Colombian government’s decision to forge closer ties with the United States in its fight against drugs have fueled what some are calling an arms race.
“This trend is worrisome,” said Peruvian Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaunde. “It’s hard to understand why countries are spending so much on arms purchases because this has traditionally been a peaceful region’’ (Miami Herald).
Massive arms spending includes an air defense system, combat aircraft and tanks for Venezuela, as well as military aircraft for Chile and Ecuador. Other countries in the region have also increased their military budget.
“In 2008 the 12 South American countries together channeled more than $50 billion into military expenditures, about 30 percent more than in 2007. Most prominent among countries where arms buying went up are Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela” (UPI).
As governments purchase expensive weaponry, many of their citizens are living below the poverty line.
The SOS Children’s Village—which describes itself as “an international non-governmental social development organization”—reported that thousands of families in Guatemala are in a desperate situation as the global downturn triggers serious food shortages. It further said that some 54,000 families are already going hungry, while 400,000 others are at risk of running out of food; 50 children have died of chronic malnutrition this year.
“The tragedy for the region, in addition to the fact that countries should use much of that money to help reduce poverty at home, is that each nation’s arms purchases makes its neighbors nervous—and moves them to buy weapons themselves” (Miami Herald).