The Politics of Arms Acquisitions in South America

Trends and research agenda1

Authored by: Jorge Battaglino

Routledge Handbook of Latin American Security

Print publication date:  July  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415718691
eBook ISBN: 9781315867908
Adobe ISBN: 9781317965091


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Arms purchases have greatly increased in South America in recent years, climbing 92 per cent from the 1997–2005 period to the 2005–2013 period (SIPRI 2014).2 The prior wave of arms purchases developed during the 1970s when the region was undergoing a time of military competition between Argentina, Chile, and Brazil; Chile and Peru; Peru and Ecuador; and Colombia and Venezuela. Up to the early 1990s the region was defined as a zone of negative peace (Hurrell 1998; Kacowicz 1998), characterized by distrust, arms races, and military competition. Furthermore, these zones are characterized by the predominance of nondemocratic regimes and by a low level of economic relations (Martin 2006). The quality of peace is low, since war has not been ruled out (Kacowicz 1998). Since the 1990s, however, the region has increasingly moved towards stable peace. Some significant border differences have been resolved, military cooperation has deepened, and an unprecedented process of building regional institutions is underway. Zones of stable peace are defined by the presence of confidence and trust. States do not prepare for armed conflict with neighboring countries, nor expect neighbors to do so. This context is mostly associated by the presence of democratic rule and strong economic relations between countries. Although the impact of democracy and economic relations on the emergence of a zone of stable peace is still unclear, the presence of these two factors has had a positive impact on the quality of the peace (Kacowicz 1998).

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