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The military in Latin America

In search of a new role
For over a century running up to the 1980s the military leaders of Latin America saw themselves as men with a mission (for most of that time they were indeed men – since there were no, or very few, women in the ranks of the military)...
What kind of military interventions in the politics of LAC countries have there been in the last two decades? Can any of them be described as constituting a coup d’etat? Is there some kind of pattern or are these ‘incidents and accidents’ completely heterogenous and unrelated? Here, we briefly examine some of these events...
To put the behaviour of Latin America’s military in context, it is useful to look at some indications of their size, budget, and staffing levels...
The military coups of the 1970s and 1980s deeply affected the thinking of analysts and policymakers across the region...
The role of the military is often determined by civilians, in more ways than one...
The US-based Wilson Centre in September published an interesting report on AMLO’s changing relationship with the Mexican armed forces, under the title ‘Militarisation a la AMLO: How Bad Can It Get?’ The author, Craig A Deare, highlights the key role played by military forces in the 1910-1917 Mexican Revolution, a period in which, according to the best historical estimates, somewhere between 1m and 2m people died in the violence.  Significantly, every single subsequent president, up to 1946, had played a role as an active service general during the revolutionary period...
Brazil was ruled by a succession of military governments between 1964 and 1985...
The powerful domestic political role achieved by the Venezuelan armed forces may, as suggested above, be an example of a particularly radical “stealth intervention”...
A recurring theme in this report is that anti-democratic interventions by the armed forces, whether fully-fledged ‘old-school’ coup d’etats, or the more recent phenomenon of more limited or stealth interventions, have all been carried out at the request and invitation of different civilian factions...
Perhaps more than at any other time in recent decades, the purpose and role of the armed forces is up for debate...
One main conclusion of this report, therefore, has to be simply put: the era of military intervention in Latin America politics is not over...

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