Thursday, October 24, 2019

Politicizing the Latin American Military

Javier Corrales has an article in Americas Quarterly warning that the political use of the military that we're seeing around Latin America will not lead anywhere good. I agree. However, I think we need to shift the argument a bit.

Latin America used to be known as the land of the military junta. It is now at risk of becoming the land of militarized democracies.  
I would argue that it already is, and has been. I studied civil-military relations extensively at the beginning of my career almost twenty years ago and that was clearly evident. It's not always every country all the time, but it's always been there. Brian Loveman wrote a lot about how deeply embedded Latin American militaries are in their constitutions, which in many cases are not amended or not enough.

I think it's more useful to consider this a long-standing problem because it requires structural changes and not just policy shifts. Specifically, it requires constitutional changes to the military's role and to the president's ability to decree emergency powers.
Empowering the military is worrisome, even when most citizens support the idea. Governments end up being indebted to generals. Generals get too used to certifying or setting policies. Policies become too focused on the need to maximize security. And security is conceptualized mostly in terms of repression.
Once again, I totally agree, so let's re-examine all those constitutions, all the myriad laws that allow presidents to give in to the temptation to use maximum force when faced with crisis.


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