Politics and the Military in Latin America

The armed forces have held varying degrees of influence in Latin America throughout history. Their influence was arguably greatest during the 20th Century as many countries in the region came under the control of military dictatorships. The fall of these dictatorships, and the subsequent return to democracy, led the armed forces to retreat from the public eye, although their influence has remained considerable. In recent years, however, Latin American militaries have become increasingly prominent. They are called upon by civilian governments to perform civilian duties, such as distributing aid, overseeing COVID-19 vaccination programmes, and even directing traffic. Politicians attempting to push through controversial reforms or seeking to show authority are photographed flanked by military generals. And heavily militarised police forces work in tandem with military units to crack down on drug cartels and patrol the streets.

This event brought together a panel of experts to discuss what the return to prominence of the armed forces in Latin America means for democracy, whether this is indicative of weak civilian governance, what can be done to change this, and whether there is a place for the military in political life in the future.


Chair: Irene Mia

Editor, Armed Conflict Survey; Senior Fellow for Latin America and Conflict, Security and Development, International Institute for Strategic Studies

Kristina Mani

Professor of Politics, Oberlin College & Conservatory

Daniel Linsker

Partner, Control Risks

Vinicius de Carvalho

Director, Brazil Institute, Kings’ College London

General Sérgio Etchegoyen

General of the Brazilian Armed Forces, former Secretary of Institutional Security

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