Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid-19 and Latin American Militaries

Long before Covid-19, Latin American militaries were once again taking prominent places in politics. Sometimes this was clearly antithetical to democracy (as in Bolivia and El Salvador) and other times just a mixing of military and police functions (as in Chile) that might have negative long-term impacts.

And now the pandemic has put the military on the front lines and in large numbers. Some recent examples:

Argentina: the army is building hospitals.

Bolivia: on the streets to enforce quarantine.

Brazil: an operations center for soldiers to deal with airports, ports, borders, etc.

Chile: over 20,000 soldiers deployed to enforce curfew.

Ecuador: deployment in Guayas province (not sure if elsewhere) where there have been a lot of cases.

El Salvador: enforcing the quarantine.

Mexico: mobilization of upwards of 250,000 soldiers for a variety of purposes.

Peru: military patrols (and one dead).

Using the military in a time of natural disaster is neither unusual nor, on its face, alarming. A big difference with the current crisis is that the duration. Like it or not, a major military presence in major Latin American cities for months might well become normalized. That's not a healthy combination with presidents--Bukele comes to mind, of course--who have already shown a proclivity for using the military as a political weapon.


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