Colombia must update defenses or risk foreign attack: report

Colombia must update its arms purchases over the next five years or remain at high risk from a foreign military attack, revealed a government document this weekend.

So warned a report by the Sector Studies Division of the Ministry of Defense, which was put together by a “centre for strategic thinking” affiliated to the ministry and dedicated to analyzing the challenges and threats to Colombian security forces in the coming years.

The document may provoke controversy because it allegedly claims there are “ideological and territorial expansionist aspirations” that threaten Colombia, without specifically mentioning any of the neighbours.

According to analysts at the Department of Defense, if investment in security falls or by 2014 certain necessary acquisitions have not been met to address what the analysts call “changes in the regional scenario” then Colombia faces real danger.

“Against a background of hemispheric change the country takes a risk by failing to strengthen its deterrent capability. The cost of external conflict would be much greater than the cost of reinforcing that capacity,” claimed the report.

One of the report’s statements estimated that if Colombia went to war with a neighbour, in a single year security spending could increase to 11.5 percent of GDP without taking into account collateral costs, while an effective deterrence strategy would cost a third of that price.

According to newspaper El Tiempo, the government must define what type of equipment to purchase with the money collected from the extension of a tax term (amounting to about 1.3 billion pesos a year between 2011 and 2014). With Colombia’s guerrilla force still strong, the obvious choice would be to acquire more helicopters and light aircrafts.

However, the report’s authors warn that continuing along this path would open up new areas of risk -“The effect of these decisions (prioritizing the internal conflict) would mean an increase in a gap with respect to neighboring countries, who in addition to being ideologically distanced from Colombia have also been strengthening their military capacity.”

The Minister of Defense himself recently stated that “without entering into an arms race, Colombia must build a credible deterrent capability which allows us to convince a potential adversary in the event of an attack that the cost of said attack would exceed any potential benefits.”

Furthermore, the issues do not solely revolve around military operations but also “supporting the development of the country.” El Tiempo states that there has been government talk of large military complexes constructed to ensure security for the emergence of urban centers in the half the country which is currently excluded from the production chain.

In addition, there has been discussion of enhancing and specializing the Army Corps of Engineers to set up basic infrastructure in areas that until now have been violence hots spots.

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