Sunday, August 18, 2013
Bachelet Win Could Mean Big Cuts In Chile's Military Budget
Indications are that Michelle Bachelet will win November's election, making her president of the republic for a second time. Despite her socialist leanings, Chile's armed forces made some major weapons acquisitions during her 2006-2010 term, as the windfall from soaring copper prices allowed Chile to buy used F-16 fighter jets, maritime patrol aircraft and much of the armor that today comprises the army's cavalry units. But a Chilean defense and policy expert doesn't expect Bachelet to do much for defense spending in a second term. Bachelet's administration reinterpreted the military's copper tax (10% of export sales by state-owned mining company Codelco), resulting in a sharp reduction of funds, Daniel Prieto Vial told this blog via e-mail. By doing so, Bachelet deprived the military of its full allowance under the tax and, he says, essentially violated the funding law. Current president Sebastian Piñera has continued the course, Prieto Vial added. "That's why Chile is starting to fall behind, and Peru -- which has much larger armed forces than Chile's, with sizable reserves -- is starting to quickly pass us in terms of modern equipment." Meanwhile, El Periodista gave a chilling outlook for Chile's military spending if the center-left coalition wins power. Leaders of that coalition have been developing a plan that would cap the weapons budget at about $300 million a year. That's a drastic cut from the more than $500 million that would be budgeted under a planned replacement of the copper tax, which itself has provided upwards of $1 billion annually. The center-left leaders argue that Chile's military strength did nothing to dissuade Peru from challenging its maritime border in the International Court. Instead, they would seek a rapprochement with Peru, making Chile less of a military threat by moving some units away from the northern border. They would also keep Chile's military acquisitions more or less in line with its neighbors', effectively forfeiting Chile's military superiority. The generals are said to be worried.