WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas
27 Nov 1997 | News

Reluctant Recruits: The US Military and the War on Drugs

By Peter Zirnite

Despite the end of the Cold War and recent transitions toward more democratic societies in Latin America, the United States has launched a number of initiatives that strengthen the power of Latin American security forces, increase the resources available to them, and expand their role within society — precisely when struggling civilian elected governments are striving to keep those forces in check. Rather than encourage Latin American militaries to limit their role to the defense of national borders, Washington has provided the training, resources and doctrinal justification for militaries to move into the business of building roads and schools, providing veterinary and child inoculation services, and protecting the environment. Of greatest concern, however, is U.S. encouragement and support for the region's armed forces — including the U.S. military itself — to play a significant role in domestic counternarcotics operations, a law enforcement function reserved in most democracies for civilian police.