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Latin America’s Armed Forces Have Increasing Clout

The essequibo, a swathe of jungle that makes up two-thirds of Guyana, seems an unlikely place for war to break out. But in recent weeks the area has seen an unusual flurry of military activity. Venezuelan troops built an airstrip and roads near the border ahead of a referendum on December 3rd on whether to annex the territory, which Venezuela has long claimed as its own. American military advisers flew down to Guyana—an oil-rich but poorly armed nation—to talk strategy.

On December 4th Brazil’s defence minister sent 16 armoured vehicles to the border with Venezuela after Nicolás Maduro, its autocrat, claimed that 95% of voters had agreed to the annexation.

Latin America has avoided a major international war for almost a century. Even its cold-war military dictators abstained from attacking each other. Instead, the generals collaborated in the mass murder of dissidents. By the turn of the millennium, newly democratic governments had sent their soldiers back to the barracks. Some got rid of them altogether. Costa Rica abolished its armed forces in 1948. Panama followed suit in 1990.

The region spent just 1.1% of its gdp on defence in 2022, on a par with sub-Saharan Africa. Paraguay’s airmen today use second-hand choppers that last saw service in Vietnam.

Source : Economist