At World Politics Review, Chris Sabatini writes about the threat to democracy of intelligence services in Latin America.
Since transitioning from authoritarianism to democracy, civilian governments in Argentina, Chile, Peru and Colombia have made great strides in curtailing the autonomy of the armed forces in terms of accountability for past abuses, budgeting, promotion and operations. But in all these countries, the military and intelligence services have retained a degree of autonomy over specific missions and their operations, referred to as “reserved domains” in the Latin American democracy transition literature of the 1990s. Recent events have demonstrated how far the region still has to go in improving transparency and civilian control over the intelligence services.
I agree. Back in the mid-2000s I did research on this, which grew out of my interest in Chilean civil-military relations, and published this article in 2008. This is something that should get more attention than it does. I wrote primarily about autonomy, but Chris notes the serious problem of presidential abuse and politicization. Unreformed (of poorly reformed) intelligence services are bad for democracy, bad for the armed forces, and in fact are not positive in virtually any sense.