Washington Militarizes Relations with Latin America

National Catholic Reporter, November 19, 2004 | Go to article overview

Washington Militarizes Relations with Latin America


Steadily growing U.S. military aid to Latin America and Caribbean nations encourages armed forces in those countries to "blur the lines" between the roles of the civilian and military, said a report released in October by Latin American advocacy groups.

U.S. military aid to the region has risen sharply since 2000, according to the report. It noted that even during the height of the Cold War, military assistance was only one-third or less the amount of assistance Washington provided in economic aid to Latin America. But in 2003, military aid came to $860 million, just short of the $921 million spent on economic and humanitarian assistance in the same year.

If this trend continues, military aid may actually exceed economic assistance, according to the study, "Blurring the Lines: Trends in U.S. Military Programs in Latin America," by the Washington Office on Latin America, the Latin America Working Group, and the Center for International Policy.

Moreover, vague new doctrines propagated by the U.S. military's Southern Command (Southcom), such as "effective sovereignty"--which considers that U.S. security may be threatened by Latin American governments' failure to exercise control over vast "ungoverned spaces" within their borders--are providing new rationales for regional militaries to assert their power over civilian authorities.

And, with considerably more financial and other resources than the State Department or other U.S. agencies, Southcom is increasingly defining the U.S. role in Latin America, according to the report.

The major theme of "Blurring the Lines" is that Washington is encouraging Latin American militaries to encroach on what should be the jurisdiction of civilians. …

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