Canning Insights

Politics and the Military in Latin America

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The military has always played a prominent role in Latin American politics. Today, that influence appears to be increasing. In this event, Canning House assesses this complicated relationship, and considers how it could affect the region going forward.

Politics and the Military in Latin America

The military has always played a prominent role in Latin American politics. From the establishment of many of today’s nation-states, through decades of military dictatorship, and to a contemporary relationship of collaboration with the region’s civilian governments, the armed forces have been virtually ever-present in Latin America’s current affairs.

While public trust in democracy has fallen sharply throughout the region over the last ten years, due to ongoing corruption scandals and failings to provide basic services, trust in the armed forces has remained relatively stable. Employed in a wide variety of settings – be it reinforcing the image of populist leaders, engaging in counter-insurgency operations, or teaching children how to read and write – the relationship between politics and the military in Latin America remains complex.

The armed forces’ increasing influence has been brought into even sharper relief due to the Covid-19 pandemic. With many branches of government infrastructure overwhelmed, military forces have been drafted in to carry out all manner of emergency services. With this in mind, this event will discuss the following issues:

  • Is the renewed prominence of the military in Latin America a threat to democratic institutions?
  • Is the reliance on the military in fact indicative of weak civilian governments? What can be done to change this?
  • Is there a positive role for the military to play in Latin America?
  • With heavily militarized police forces a common presence in all Latin American nations, is a complete overhaul of security apparatus throughout the region the only way to meet citizens’ needs?


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