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Chile vows and calls for transparency in arms purchases

Oct. 7, 2009 at 11:31 AM   |   Comments

SANTIAGO, Chile, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Chile is compiling a list of all its military purchases for publication and expects neighboring countries to demonstrate similar transparency in their weapons acquisitions programs, Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez announced in apparent response to charges his country is fueling an arms race in Latin America.

Fernandez said the government planned to document all its military purchases in a follow-up to two previously published volumes on national defense, MercoPress reported.

Chile has reacted with anger and sharp rebuttals to pronouncements from Peru, Bolivia and other South American countries that Latin America is squandering resources on arms while it needs to spend more on poverty reduction.

Fernandez said during a visit to Ecuador this week the official "Book on National Defense" would put at rest concerns among Chile's neighbors over recent arms purchases worth several billion dollars.

He said Chile had begun exchanging information on military purchases with Argentina and would soon start similar collaboration with Ecuador. Chile's attempt to persuade Peru to share military acquisition information has been thwarted by Peruvian President Alan Garcia, who has been critical of Chilean arms purchases.

Garcia said Chilean arms purchases were out of control and warned that Latin America was entering an arms race.

Chilean President Michele Bachelor challenged Garcia in public comments defending her country's arms purchases. She urged other countries to agree to transparency in arms transactions.

Analysts said Chilean arms purchases were likely to be less than those contracted by Brazil and Venezuela and, as with most South American countries, were part of an overdue military modernization.

Revenue gains made by commodity exporters and conservative economic policies shielded most South American states from the worst effects of global recession and gave them much needed cash for arms purchases. But Argentina has lagged behind Chile and Brazil because of poor economic performance and has not begun implementation of a military reorganization program.

Fernandez said the publication will aim to list and explain all of Chile's recent arms purchases "so that everyone can be very clear about what we have done." Chile's recent arms purchases are designed only to replace and modernize obsolete weapons, not to create an arms race, he added.

He said transparency of information was more important to clear up any potential misunderstanding. Chile will develop an arms purchase information-sharing system with Ecuador similar to the one now in place with Argentina, he added.

"This is a very determined effort on our part to make everything transparent, so that our countries understand one another better," said Fernandez.

Chile published two previous accounts of its military purchases in 1997 and 2002.

Topics: Alan Garcia
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