WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

On a War Footing: How Armed Forces’ Counter-Drug Mission Threatens Human Rights and Alters Democracies’ Delicate Civil-Military Balance

10:30 AM EDT Friday, 29 October 2021

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) cordially invites you to the following discussion on militarization and democratic governance, the fourth installment of the series Decades of Damage Done: The Drug War Catastrophe in Latin America and the Caribbean 

At home and abroad, militarized enforcement has been a central feature of the U.S.-led “war on drugs,” with police forces adopting military tools and tactics, and armed forces assuming direct roles in drug enforcement operations. In Latin America, militarized enforcement of drug prohibition has taken both forms, bolstered by U.S. pressure and hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. aid, escalating in the late 1980s with the Andean Initiative. Despite decades of militarized drug enforcement, the illegal drug trade continues to flourish in Latin America and globally. While militarization has not diminished the drug trade, it has brought devastating consequences for human rights and contributed to the erosion of already tenuous civilian controls over the armed forces.

High-level involvement of the military in drug enforcement operations has led to widespread human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and enforced disappearances. Since Mexico intensified its militarized war on crime in 2006, annual homicides in the country have more than tripled and disappearances have surged, with more than 93,000 people currently recognized as disappeared and missing. Despite the recent announcement of a new U.S.-Mexico security cooperation framework, Mexico’s government continues to expand the military’s role both within and beyond the public security sphere.

Instances of abuse of military assistance by U.S.-backed security and intelligence forces in countries like Colombia—at times used to illegally monitor and target journalists, human rights defenders, judges, and possible whistleblowers—make clear the lack of civilian control over the military and the continuous struggle for accountability in the wake of decades of militarization processes that were born out of the drug war model.

Please join WOLA for the fourth installment in a six-part webinar series examining the consequences of prohibition and the drug war for Latin America and the Caribbean, and identifying alternative approaches consistent with protecting human rights, promoting public health and achieving social justice.

Watch event recording

Event Details:
Friday, October 29, 2021
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT

María de Jesús Alvarado Espinoza
Family Member, Alvarado Espinoza et al. v. Mexico
Enforced Disappearance Case

Nitza Sitlaly Alvarado Espinoza
Family Member, Alvarado Espinoza et al. v. Mexico
Enforced Disappearance Case

Adam Isacson 
Director for Defense Oversight, WOLA

Juliana Miranda
Researcher, Center for Legal and Social Studies (CELS), Argentina

Arlene Tickner
Professor, Universidad del Rosario, Colombia

Stephanie Brewer
Director for Mexico and Migrant Rights, WOLA

Simultaneous live interpretation will only be available through Zoom. This event will be live streamed via the WOLA YouTube page.