RIO DE JANEIRO, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Global arms exporters increased their trade despite the economic downturn leading to huge spending cuts in both developed and developing countries, latest data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute showed.
Of particular relevance to Latin America were continued arms buying by Venezuela, in recession for the third year running, and a vigorously regenerated defense manufacturing and marketing program initiated by Brazil.
Although Brazil recently has announced cutbacks in the quantities of defense procurements it will go for in 2011-12 its arms buying bill still runs into billions of dollars.
More billions have gone into reviving an arms industry that went into decline as military dictatorship gave way to democratic revival in the 1980s.
Brazil's defense output remains small when compared with leading producers cited by SIPRI as the world's Top 100 arms-producing companies.
The SIPRI report presented an overall picture of consistently strong sales by the armaments industries as governments cut back heavily on development and social expenditure.
Despite the continuing slowdown, the total arms sales of the leading 100 of the world's largest arms-producing companies increased by $14.8 billion from 2008 to $401 billion, an 8 percent increase, data showed.
The producers maintained an upward trend in their arms sales, an increase of a total of 59 percent in real terms since 2002, said the think tank.
South American nations have been debating whether their arms buying has fueled an arms race in the region. Much of it is military refurbishment but there are many examples of purchases in response to regional tensions, as between Colombia and Venezuela.
"U.S. government spending on military goods and services is a key factor in arms sales increases for U.S. arms-producing and military services companies and for Western European companies with a foothold in the US arms and military services market,' states SIPRI arms industry expert Susan Jackson.
Of the SIPRI top 100 arms-producing companies, 45 are based in the United States. The companies generated just under $247 billion in total arms sales, 61.5 percent of all sales by the top 100 companies.
Sales by the 33 companies based in nine Western European countries -- Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom -- generated $120 billion in arms sales, which 30 percent of all the sales by the 100 leading arms companies.
Ten of the top 100 companies, based in Asia and the Middle East, generated $24 billion in combined arms sales.
None of the top 100 companies are based in Latin America or Africa.