Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Latin American Militaries and Covid-19

Today I listened to a panel where a variety of experts (Arturo Sotomayor as moderator, Kristina Mani, Maiah Jaskoski, Harold Trinkunas, Adriana Abdenur, and Rut Diamint) on Latin American civil-military relations talked about the military's response to Covid-19. There were a lot of good points made, but two things in particular struck me. I should also note that these points are not attributed to any particular person.

First, there is almost no public discussion about it. Latin American and U.S. analysts alike have been talking a lot about this in recent months, but seemingly their alarm is not mirrored in Latin American legislatures or in the general public. I think this is a critical and rarely discussed issue. We do generally see the public expressing confidence in the armed forces, even in countries with troubled histories. However, does that translate to more or less blanket approval of increased military actions during this crisis? If that is the case, then analysts can wring their hands all they want, but the situation is not likely to improve.

Second it's dangerous to frame the virus in terms of national security and "war." This officially militarizes the situation, but also allows for the government to justify actions and sacrifices that otherwise would not be acceptable in a democracy. It allows for skirting the constitution. We've already seen the problems with the "war on drugs" and the "war on terrorism" both in the U.S. and in Latin America.

This issue is just getting more important and relevant by the day.


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