Latin American Militaries in the 21st Century

Civil-military relations in the era of disappearing boundaries

Authored by: Deborah L. Norden

Routledge Handbook of Latin American Security

Print publication date:  July  2015
Online publication date:  July  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415718691
eBook ISBN: 9781315867908
Adobe ISBN: 9781317965091


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In Latin America, men in uniform rarely govern anymore. This obvious observation highlights what has changed about Latin American political-military relations in the early 21st century. Latin American democracies have aged without necessarily maturing, while security threats have evolved in ways that change what militaries do. This chapter begins by examining the question of control of the armed forces, and the ways in which challenges have changed and concepts have become more nuanced. Specifically, I look at the range from civilian autonomy, to domination, and finally defense and security management. I then turn to three significant challenges to civil-military relations: first, the political context, which in several Latin American countries has strayed significantly from ideals of liberal democracy; second, the security context, which has altered what militaries do, especially given the constraints of limited resources; and third, the ways in which the composition and social bases of the armed forces may have shifted since the wave of democratic transitions. Briefly, patterns of political-military relations have been changing in Latin America because all the major variables determining these patterns have evolved over the past decades. Despite the apparent obsolescence of military regimes, civilian control remains limited and, in some ways, even precarious.

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