'Mistrust' Fueling Latin American Arms Race

Venezuela, Brazil lead weapons spending spree
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 16, 2008 12:33 PM CST
Brazil's Defense Minister, Nelson Jobim, left, speaks during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Brasilia, Wednesday, Ago. 1, 2007. At background from left to right, President Luiz Inacio Lula da...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 3 more images

(Newser) – Recent bursts of defense spending from Brazil and Venezuela have experts wondering if Latin America—decades removed from a war between nations—has entered an arms race, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Chile has also invested in weapons recently, and Colombia is rife with war-on-drugs firepower. “There is a real risk of it escalating,” one expert said. “There is tremendous mistrust between countries.”

“Brazil won’t say it, but Chavez’s buildup is what made it invest in its military,” said one analyst of Venezuela's combative president. But each country also has internal reasons for bulking up. Brazil, for example, wants to shut down drug traffickers, keep out Colombian guerillas, and protect newfound oil wealth. “Venezuela comes fairly low down the list” of enemies, deadpanned one analyst.