How the Military is Eroding Democratic Institutions in Latin America

June 16, 2015
03:00 pm - 04:00 pm

 1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004

Prof. Rut Diamint, Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

with comments by
Dr. Harold Trinkunas, Brookings Institution

moderated by
Marc F. Plattner, National Endowment for Democracy

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About the Event

The post-1977 wave of democracy in Latin America has ushered in a prolonged period of competitive political regimes in almost every state for the first time in the region’s history. Despite this encouraging trajectory, the assertion of civilian control over the security sector remains incomplete, leaving these countries vulnerable to a reversal of democratic gains. The military continues to hold power through several mechanisms, thereby expanding its mission and maintaining influence in areas unrelated to defense. In her presentation, Rut Diamint conducted a comparative analysis of the new forms of military power in Latin America, describing civil-military dynamics and governmental interpretations of military goals. She discussed the impact on democracy, including the effect of the military’s role in partisan politics, domestic law enforcement, and partition of national power in both the domestic and international arenas. Her presentation was followed by comments from Harold Trinkunas.

Prof. Rut Diamint is professor of political science at Torcuato Di Tella University and researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technological Research in Buenos Aires. An expert on civil-military relations, she has served as chief of cabinet and advisor to the Argentine Ministry of Defense (2004–2005), and has held research positions at Florida International University (2008) and Columbia University (2001). She has also coordinated projects for the Ford Foundation and Open Society Foundations on defense issues, political leadership, and democracy. Her books include Democratizing Politicians: A Study of Latin American Leaders (2013, in Spanish) and Democracy and Security in Latin America (2002, in Spanish). For her work on security issues, she was appointed to serve on the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters (2013–2015). During her fellowship, Prof. Diamint is studying the defense policies of key Latin American countries over the past decade in order to identify regional trends in international security. She plans to publish a book exploring the role of the military in Latin America and the impact of regional defense policy on the global security agenda.

Harold Trinkunas is the Charles W. Robinson Chair and senior fellow and director of the Latin America Initiative in the Foreign Policy program at the Brookings Institution. His research focuses on Latin American politics, particularly on issues related to foreign policy, governance and security. He is currently studying Brazil’s emergence as a major power, as well as Latin American contributions to global governance on issues including energy policy, drug policy reform and internet governance. Dr. Trinkunas has also written extensively on terrorism financing, borders and ungoverned spaces.

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