23 January 2008

Colombia: The Cost Of War

Jose Delgado and Diógenes Campos

If FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) did not exist, they would have to be invented. They are the principal excuse for the overwhelming military spending and to justify indefinite re-election.

It is envisaged that for 2008 81.2% of the posts linked to the federal budget will be occupied by public servants assigned the work of defence, security and policing. Of the total wages and salaries to be paid in 2008 for posts linked to the federal budget, 58.4% has been assigned to the Ministry of Defence.

The spending on defence is equal to that of health, education and environmental cleaning-up; 65% of the total national investment proposed by the government is destined for military equipment.

In 2002, for each peso of military spending more than 40 centavos had to be transferred to pay for pensions. Now it is 47 centavos.

Defence spending in 2007 in billions of pesos

17.87 Includes the decentralised sector and Defence Ministry businesses
+4.34Estimated increase of the pension liability

GDP in 2007: 351.2 billion pesos.
Percentage spending on defence as part of GDP: 6.32%.

The military spending in the United States, including the annual spending in Iraq, represents 4.4% of the GDP. In European countries belonging to NATO, it is around 2%.

In 1934, during the conflict with Peru, military spending rose to 3% of the GDP, less than half of that of 2007. During the military dictatorship of 1954-57, military spending fell from 2.2% of the GDP to 1.5%. In the period 1926-98, the average was 1.8% of the GDP.

For each 1,000 inhabitants the level of militarisation today is double that during the military coup.

Increase in Military Presence
YearNumber of SoldiersSoldiers/1,000 inhabitants
2006 196,492 4.9
2007 209,741 5.0

In the period 2002-2007, 160,000 soldiers fought 16,900 guerrillas of FARC,
3,700 of the ELN and 12,175 of the AUC for a total of 32,775 illegal combatants. This equates to 4.9 soldiers for each irregular combatant. For 2007 the AUC, supposedly in confrontation with the government, demobilised. The government estimated at 11,000 and 2,500 the strength of FARC and ELN respectively, which shows 15.5 soldiers for each guerrilla and the figure is set to rise.

Guerrilla Numbers Aug ’02 – July ‘07

In this period the guerrillas showed a marked decline in numbers of combatants but at the same time a capacity to recover.

Guerrilla losses in the period Aug ’02 – July’07
Number captured27,290
Number killed9,841
Number demobilised13,333
Includes small irregular groups separate from FARC and ELN

The total reduction was 8,101. A simple calculation shows that for every 100 insurgents put out of action, the guerrillas in the period 2002-2007 managed 84 new recruits, which raises doubts about the efficiency of the fight.

The simple equation:
Guerrillas 2007 = Guerrillas 2002 – (killed + captured + demobilised + recruits)
shows that the guerrillas recruited 42,363 new combatants, more than double the initial strength.

The casualty figures presented by the armed forces have a high probability of including extra-judicial executions and false positives. The report of the International Observation Mission on Extra-Judicial Executions and Impunity in Colombia, presented on October 10, 2007, which had the support of the Office of the High Commission of the United Nations in Colombia, referred among others to the following facts:

According to the Ministry of Defence data, there were 8,104 combat deaths of “presumed” guerrillas between August 2002 and September 2006. The latest report said 2,072 members of illegal armed group were killed between July 2006 and June 2007.

At least 955 cases of extra-judicial killings were attributed to the public forces as also 235 cases of forced disappearances. Information provided by the military does not discriminate between dead guerrillas, those executed outside of combat, extra-judicial executions and false positives.

The politics of defeating the guerrillas prioritising military activity is costly and could lead to inappropriate results. The indicators do not improve if the period August ’02 –July ’07 is analysed… maintaining the very conservative hypothesis that only 30% of the military spending is directed to counter-insurgency, and that the figures of the “effectiveness” of combat published by the government correspond to guerrilla fatalities and not to extra-judicial executions.

Consider the year 2006:
The numbers of those captured + killed + demobilised = 9,565
30% of the budget of the armed forces = 1.9% of the GDP = $5.9 billion*
“Unit cost” of capture, killing, demobilisation of a guerrilla = $616 million
In the period 1995-2003, the figure is calculated at $ 629 million.
In the years 2002-2003, the figure goes down to $293 million.

The increase in spending does not seem to increase the efficiency in the years 2004-06.The result is more disconcerting if one takes into consideration that of each 100 guerrillas taken out, 84 others are recruited, which implies that to achieve each “effective” withdrawal in a period of four years, the economic cost exceeds $1,000 - $1,500 million.

Comparing the year 2006 with 2005, it can be observed that for the 9,565 guerrillas retired from conflict, the subversives could recruit 8,523; the effective reduction was 1,042. That is to say, to achieve each “effective” withdrawal, and with the hypothesis that only 30% is assigned to counter-insurgency, the figure is a mind-blowing $5,662 million for each effective reduction.

*Presumably Colombian dollar as the Colombian peso is also informally known.


Anonymous said...

I really like when people are expressing their opinion and thought. So I like the way you are writing

Anonymous said...

Not bad article, but I really miss that you didn't express your opinion, but ok you just have different approach