Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Regarding "Chile's Aggressive Military Arms Purchases Are Ruffling the Region, Alarming in Particular Bolivia, Peru and Argentina"

Dear COHA,

The article is obsolescent and badly informed. Long gone are the days when military purchases through the copper fund were "autonomous", and the "military establishment" has long been "confronted" and has to negotiate for months with Hacienda to buy an extra box of ammunition if it is not already in the budget.

It is amazing that an institution of the prestige of COHA can come up with such utter rubbish, unless it is inspired by one of Chile's neighbours, or more likely, the ineptitude of its "research fellow".

As readers of my own reports would know, and those who are not that lucky could easily have found out if they read anything else than 15-year old papers by academics who do not know one end of a barrel from another, the military have not just lost political power (including the 4 designated senators inherited from the Pinochet constitution), and had their right to call the National Security Council and immunity of the commanders in chief from dismissal revoked, but their personal incomes are now one third of their civilian life equivalents (they were on par in 1990), their ordinary budgetary resources have not increased in real terms for years (contrary to expenditure in general which has been going up at up to double inflation), and several hundred of them have been prosecuted for human rights violations. The "bonanza" from the Copper Fund may be real on paper, but in practice the decision to spend it has been formally taken away from them by the Comtroller-General's office and de facto handed to Hacienda, which is sitting on decisions to the point of catching hemorrhoids. All this under the wrongly described "Socialist".

The only correct thing in the analysis is the existence of shortfalls in other areas and the risk of social unrest, but this has nothing to do with the Chilean military. There is no "guns or butter" debate or dilemam in Chile. There is money to spare for both.


Armen Kouyoumdjian
Country Risk Strategist
Chile Member, SIPRI Defence Expenditure Network

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