While the proposal for a global ceasefire during a disease pandemic has done the opposite of catching on, there are a few small signs of sanity and even of successful activism. While most big military spenders (including the super-mega-biggest one) have increased or kept their spending steady, the SIPRI numbers show a serious reduction from 2019 to 2020 in military spending by Brazil, and reductions as well by China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey (the only NATO member stepping out of line on this), Singapore, Pakistan, Algeria, Indonesia, Colombia, Kuwait, and Chile.
Chile is reducing its military spending by 4.9% in order to better address the health crisis. I did say “small,” but small percentages tend to be significant amounts of money when you’re talking about military spending.
I was put onto this topic by Angelo Cardona, a member of World BEYOND War’s Advisory Board, who told me about Chile and about what he has been doing to reduce military spending in NATO partner Colombia. In 2020, Cardona said, he led the Global Campaign on Military Spending (GCOMS) in Colombia. As part of that effort, he proposed along with 28 Colombian Congress Members to transfer 1 billion Colombian pesos from militarism to the health sector. The Colombian Ministry of “Defense” agreed to do 10% of that, moving 100 million pesos (or $25 million). This action, Cardona reports, inspired Chilean Members of Parliament to do the same.
On April 26, 2021, Cardona again proposed moving 1 billion pesos from military to health in Colombia, and specifically proposed that Colombia refrain from purchasing 24 warplanes from Lockheed Martin at a cost of 14 billion Colombian pesos ($4.5 billion). “This time,” he reports, “my request was supported by 33 Congressmen of Colombia.” Here is the letter they sent to the President of Colombia (PDF). There was a great deal of media coverage (in Spanish): one, two, three, four.
On May 4, 2021, amid protests in Colombia, Cardona was contacted by the President’s office and told that they would comply with his request not to purchase the 24 warplanes. This excellent news should encourage everyone trying to prevent Canada from buying 88 of the monstrosities. The new Minister of Finance, José Manuel Restrepo, made the announcement publicly.
Not only is this news that should be celebrated and used as a model for elsewhere, but people are already seeking to honor those involved. Parliamentarians in Chile and Colombia have nominated Angelo Cardona for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Activism continues in Colombia and Chile. Militarized police in Colombia have been attacking protesters of a plan to shift the tax burden onto working people. The military and police, until they are abolished, will remain an obvious place to find necessary resources.