Presidents and officials attend the inaugural meeting of the Union of South American
Nations (Unasur) Summit in Brazil, Friday, May 23, 2008 (AP).

Military Buildups Underline Dysfunctional Diplomacy in South America

June 05, 2008 09:52 AM
by Josh Katz
South American countries have boosted their military spending recently amid simmering tension, potentially jeopardizing their recently created union.

30-Second Summary

South American nations are now attempting to work together, in the same vein as the European Union. But a recent article from The Economist wonders how much of the unity conversation is just talk.

On May 23 leaders from 12 South American nations met in Brazil and established the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). The alliance will combine the two trading groups, Mercosur and the Andean Community, into one entity that shares a $2 trillion GDP.

The Economist says that Unasur “will have the appearance of purposefulness, including a secretariat in Ecuador and a parliament in Bolivia, but not much more than that.”

Michael Shifter, vice president of the policy group Inter-American Dialogue, expressed similar pessimism, according to “Unasur is a pipe dream for now.”

In addition to an economic alliance, Brazil had lobbied for a military union similar to NATO; however, Colombia failed to join.

Total defense spending in South America, Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean increased from 25 billion in 2003 to $38 billion in 2007, suggesting that the nations may not be so trusting of one another, The Economist says.

Recent events in the region point to similar assessments. In early March, Ecuador and Venezuela boosted border security when Colombia routed FARC rebels in Ecuador. Colombia has also charged Hugo Chavez and Venezuela with supporting the FARC.

Headline Link: Military buildup calls friendships into question

Background: The creation of Unasur; recent friction in the region

‘South American Tensions High After Colombian Raid in March’

Opinion & Analysis: The future of Unasur; South American arms buildup


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