Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico are the countries that most invested in defense in 2018 and are also those that have the largest armies in Latin America. Venezuela, although it has modern weapons, investing has stopped due to the economic crisis it is suffering. The persistent challenges to regional security arising from the threat of organized crime and drug traffickers and the need for humanitarian assistance and relief missions in disaster situations are some of the problems that most impel the armed forces of Latin America.
This was the conclusion of the last report "The Military Balance 2019" of the International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS in English), a British organization focused on the area of international affairs and that annually measures the military capacity of the countries of the planet.
The armies of Latin America, contrary to what happens in other parts of the world, continue to focus on resolving internal conflicts within their countries. According to the International Institute of Strategic Studies, in Latin America, there are still several regional armed forces that remain active in internal security tasks. In the cases of countries such as Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, the three countries with the largest armies in the region, internal conflicts with common crime, drug traffickers, and organized crime are the main objective of the armed forces.
The largest army in the region is Brazil, which has 334,500 troops. Of these, 138,000 are part of the army, 69,000 are from the navy, and 67,500 are from the air force. According to IISS, the Brazilian army is one of the most capable in Latin America and in recent years has invested time and money to improve its military capacity, with expenses of approximately USD 28,000 million. However, to be the largest state in the region, the proportion of military personnel in its population is one of the lowest, since there is only one soldier per 1,000 inhabitants. In comparison, the Colombian army has six per 1,000.
Colombia is the second country with the most troops in the region since it has about 293,000 active military personnel. Since internal security is a priority and focused on complying with counterinsurgency and drug trafficking operations, the largest number of Colombian soldiers is in the military with 223,150. The navy and air force are divided among the remaining members, with 56,400 and 13,650 units each, respectively.
"In the last decades, the armed forces of Colombia have significantly improved their level of training and their general capabilities," says the IISS, which highlights the country's inclusion in NATO as an important milestone. The IISS adds that, due to the humanitarian and security challenge that has left the crisis in Venezuela, which has led to the exodus of nearly 3 million citizens in the last two years, Colombia has been strengthening cooperation with Brazil in the control's border, as both countries share an extensive border with the Venezuelan state.
In fact, according to the report, the situation in Venezuela has led to a reexamination of some of Colombia's purchasing priorities, although current purchasing budgets remain modest. Reports indicate that the Colombian aspirations are included the acquisition of air defense systems. According to the IISS, the Colombian government invested USD 10,000 million in military and defense expenses.
The third regional actor in military matters is Mexico, which in 2018 invested approximately USD 5 billion in defense capabilities. In the last decade, the Mexican armed forces have expanded and modernized their internal security capabilities at the expense of their conventional capacity, due to the confrontation between the State and organized crime and drug traffickers. In terms of numbers, Mexico has 208,350 soldiers in the army, 60,300 in the navy, and 8,500 troops in the air force.
According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), the Venezuelan government still has sufficient capacities and funds to carry out its internal security tasks and comply with the protection of the regime. According to the report, the Venezuelan military has 123,000 troops, one of the largest armies in the region after those in Brazil and Colombia.
Contrary to what one might think, the Venezuelan military equipment is relatively modern, according to the IISS. The suppliers of the armament are in general China and Russia, and stand out the modern planes of Russian origin Sukhoi (Su-30MKV) and the antiaircraft equipment S-300VM, also imported from Moscow. However, the report warns, the economic crisis that plagues the country - and that has increased in the last year in Venezuela - will affect the future availability of equipment and training levels.
"The economic crisis has seriously affected the ability of the government to sustain its military expenditures; Maintenance and additional acquisition may suffer as a consequence, "argues the IISS. In Ecuador, President Lenin Moreno has sought to significantly improve relations with the United States. Under the direction of the Minister of Defense (and retired General) Oswaldo Jarrin, the Ecuadorian armed forces launched a reorganization program that includes the creation of a joint command between both nations.
For its part, Peru maintains close military ties with Colombia and signed a cooperation agreement on-air control, humanitarian assistance, and anti-narcotics and the army continues a process of transformation that includes the creation of a new disaster response brigade. Its operations, however, remain focused on internal conflicts and combating drug trafficking and common crime.
The case of Chile, for example, is another that highlights the IISS. The Chilean armed forces are professional and capable, although compact. Until recently, missions and planning were dominated by considerations of territorial defense. The active conflicts with Bolivia and Peru helped maintain a military stance focused on external defense in the event of a conventional conflict, but today the armed forces are also preparing for "missions other than war," including humanitarian and maintenance assistance. peace.
But in the region, not everything is an investment. The economic challenges in Argentina continue to impede a major renewal of its armed forces. Due to the crisis, long-awaited procurement projects have been shelved or rescheduled for 2020 and beyond. Although President Mauricio Macri announced his intention to strengthen military and industrial capacity in a speech in July, the precise amounts that will be allocated for this process were not yet clear.