The effort to assert civilian control over armed forces was central to Latin America’s post-Cold War democratic transitions. But progress in civil-military relations seems to have stalled in recent years, as civilian leaders turned to the troops to play many non-defense roles, especially policing. Now, the COVID-19 crisis has made the armed forces a part of daily civic life to an extent not seen since the years when military dictatorships governed much of the region.
This episode of WOLA’s podcast discusses these trends with Kristina Mani, associate professor of politics at Oberlin College and one of the United States’ closest watchers of Latin American civil-military relations. She is the author of Democratization and Military Transformation in Argentina and Chile: Rethinking Rivalry (Lynne Rienner 2011), and has published mid-2020 analyses of the region’s civil-military relations at World Politics Review and The Conversation.
Here, Professor Mani discusses how what until recently was viewed as a “solved problem”—the maintenance of a hierarchical organization with a monopoly of use of legitimate force within an open, democratic society—is becoming complicated again. There may be signposts here, she adds, for the future of U.S. civil-military relations.