A week after Costa Rica celebrated the 66th anniversary of the abolition of its armed forces, President Luis Guillermo Solís criticized growing arms spending in Latin America during a speech at the Ibero-American Summit in Veracruz, Mexico, on Sunday. In his remarks Solís noted a “troubling” tendency in the region toward militarization.
“When I look at Latin America I am concerned about too much spending on arms. I believe that while there is a legitimate interest in defending one’s country, there are other productive and social needs that require these resources that are not abundant in our countries,” Solís said.
Latin America spends a relatively small amount on arms compared to the rest of the world, with the United States and China as the top two big spenders. But while arms buying might not attract attention internationally, Latin America has seen significant increases in military investment in recent years, according to figures compiled by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks global military spending. Brazil is the biggest military spender in Latin America, after recently acquiring a nuclear submarine and an air carrier, when it dropped a cool $31.5 billion in 2013, according to SIPRI.
Central America as a region has seen the largest relative growth in military spending in Latin America, according to SIPRI. In 2013, Central America and the Caribbean spent $9.6 billion on their armed forces, up 6 percent from 2012 compared to a 1.6 percent increase in South America. In 2012, Central America and the Caribbean saw an 8.1 percent increase in military spending, the largest percentage change in the world that year.
Increased military spending by Costa Rica’s northern neighbor, Nicaragua, has rattled officials here. Foreign Minister Manuel González said in September that Nicaragua’s expressed desire to purchase naval and air assets from Russia was a concern for Costa Rica and the region as a whole. In May, ex-Foreign Minister Enrique Castillo accused Russia of trying to set up military bases in Nicaragua.
“That’s why I want to use this opportunity to make a call for prudence and reason on this subject that has spread across Latin America. I look with concern at this situation and how these decisions could lead us to undesirable results,” the president said.