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  • Colombia is one of the countries that, despite the peace process, has increased the budget for its military.

    Colombia is one of the countries that, despite the peace process, has increased the budget for its military. | Photo: Reuters

Argentina and Colombia have upped spending while countries like Venezuela have lowered their military budget by up to 56 percent.

In a region self-declared as a "zone of peace," Colombia and Argentina are the only countries in Latin America increasing their military spending, according to a new annual report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

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Overall, the military investment in South America continues to decline due to a better security environment in the region, although Colombia increased its budget by 8.8 percent and Argentina by 12 percent, says the report.

The report shows that global military spending grew by US$1.7 trillion in 2016 and the United States remains the world's largest military spending country with US$611 billion.

The largest cuts in military spending in 2016 happened in Venezuela, down by 56 percent, followed by South Sudan, Azerbaijan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia with 54, 36, 36, and 30 percent decreases respectively, says the report, highlighting that oil-exporting countries saw the greatest drops in spending.

The new findings come after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro criticized comments by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos accusing the Venezuelan government of "arming society."

Santos said last week his government would express its "concern" at the United Nations over "militia armament" in Venezuela, adding that the country believed that "arming society was dangerous."

Maduro reminded Santos that former President Hugo Chavez was one of the main collaborators and a key mediator in laying the ground work for peace in Colombia through his support for the peace dialogues that eventually produced a final agreement to end decades of internal armed conflict. He said the Venezuelan revolutionary process ratified its commitment to peace in Latin America and the world.

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In 2014, the Latin America and Caribbean Economic Community, known by its Spanish acronym Celac, declared Latin America and the Caribbean a "zone of peace," expressing a commitment to "solve disputes through peaceful means" and work to bring an end to the "threat or use of force" in the region.

Colombia is home to seven U.S. military bases, which will be there for ten years and whose presence is justified in the name of fighting drug trafficking.

Between 2003 and 2007, at least 54 Colombian minors were sexually abused by U.S. soldiers and military contractors, according to a report from a commission made up of members of the government and the now-demobilizing FARC rebel army. The military members were unpunished for their crimes, which the commission called "sexual imperialism."

The country also suffers a troubling human rights situation despite its long-awaited new era of peace. Statistics from the Colombian Ombudsman's Office found that between January 2016 and February 2017, 120 social leaders were murdered, 33 had murder attempts and 27 were attacked.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, the country is poised to dole out US$2 billion in purchasing large military equipment from the United States in what will be the biggest weapons acquisition since the country's Malvinas War in the 1980s.

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