Based on figures from the CEPAL and the IMF military expenditure per capita in South America (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia) is an average of USD $77. This compares to a per capita military expenditure of $1,884 by the United States. Chile leads the per capita defence expenditures in all of Latin America, at USD $214 per inhabitant.
Part of the reason why the Chilean military receives extensive funding is because it has a large budget, which it obtains partly because of Chile’s copper exports (the armed forces are mandated to receive 10% of the total of all copper exports, a provision in effect since the late 1950's and which remained so during the Eduardo Frei and Salvador Allende administrations until the present time). While Chile leads the region in military expenditure Brazil holds the nuclear card.
Military Expenditure per Capita
GBP per Capita United States
For decades Brazil has been developing what is now a $1 billion nuclear energy industry - driven by its extensive energy requirements and uranium reserves (Brazil has the world's sixth-largest uranium reserves). Already Latin America's biggest nuclear power provider, Brazil plans up to seven new atomic plants to reduce its dependence on oil and hydroelectric power and plans to export enriched uranium to provide energy for other countries. This extensive nuclear program complements Brazil's successful fuel alcohol technology. Brazil's nuclear energy program will be accelerated given the countries fragile relationship with
Bolivia and their decision to nationalise their gas industry. It seems the future question is undoubtatly about what will happen once the "age of cheap energy" is over. More concerning is the challenge we are facing today - the "age of access to cheap energy".
Brazil's evolution from a nuclear energy producer to a nuclear weapon country cannot be discounted. However it is very far from being a reality. Brazil's new nuclear plant will be capable of enriching natural uranium to less than 5% uranium-235, an isotope needed to fuel its two reactors. Warheads need more that has been enriched to 95 percent uranium-235, a material Brazil claims "it can't and won't produce".
However Brazil is and will become a key provider of nuclear raw materials - given their extensive uranium reserves. Its biggest customers will be China, Pakistan and India. Although China recently signed an agreement with Australia to buy 20,000 metric tons of uranium to China each year beginning in 2010, Brazil will become a key exporter of uranium to China.
It is interesting Iran and Brazil have both recently announced they have enriched uranium for the purpose of energy generation. Far more interesting is the lack of attention Brazil's enrichment program has received from the media, the European Union and the United States. Is there a double standard and should different rules apply? Without a doubt the international community believes so. In an interview
with the International Herald Tribune, James Goodby, a former arms control negotiator in the Clinton administration stated: "Similar programs in Libya, Iraq, Iran, and North Korea have rightly been seen as either direct or indirect threats to international peace and security. Unlike Brazil, they harbour hostile intent toward the United States." This double standard can also be explained by the fact the United States is trying to generate support for their Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) among key South American nations including Brazil.
So would Chile and Brazil use their respective military and nuclear capabilities to advance their national interests within South America (the same way Bolivia is using gas and Venezuela oil)? Unlikely under the current administrations of Lula and Bachellete. However, nobody can predict the outcome beyond the present administrations.
The only way military and nuclear proliferation programs will not become an issue in South America is if the region develops close internal economic and political ties. It would be a Matter of Dark Politics if South American countries weighted gas, military capabilities and nuclear programs against each other to advance their national interests.nuclear Energy military brazil Americas Bolivia evo morales EVO chile uranium nuclear energy electricity