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The Americas

The Americas present the United States with many opportunities and challenges, ranging from a trend toward increasing democratization, international stability, economic growth, and integration, to chronic corruption, insurgencies, human rights violations, deeply rooted organized crime, and, partly in consequence, economic migration. To northern ears, the image traditionally suggested by the moniker Latin America is one of more internal commonality and cohesion than should be assumed. To this mix can be added a history of inconsistent relations with the region, from "benign neglect" to unilateral military intervention. From the Latin American perspective, the intentions of Washington (especially the Department of Defense) in the hemisphere are often unclear and sometimes suspect. In keeping with the general theme of Strategic Assessment 1998, this chapter will review the primary U.S. interests in the Western Hemisphere, trends related to those interests, and shaping factors available to DoD to affect those trends. The resulting tone of the chapter is not optimistic, in part because national policy in the region has followed ideas and concepts acceptable to a northern European culture, which do not always translate well to this predominantly Hispanic culture. Nevertheless, long-term trends in the region point to a more optimistic (though not guaranteed) outcome.

Primary U.S. interests include enhancing hemispheric cooperation through increased economic integration, expanding core values through efforts to increase political and defense transparency, reducing the serious threat from non state actors, and perpetuating interstate security and stability through increased military contact and interaction with U.S. forces.

Brazilian carrier Minas Gerais in Rio de Janeiro

Means available to the DoD for shaping the security environment in this region include the use of force to contain state failure, deterrence to avoid conflict with nonstate actors, the enhancement of coalitions through increased military contact (intra-region and with the United States), and advocacy for defense reform both by example and through training opportunities. The most important factor in relations with Latin America, however, is policy. In the past, DoD has relied on efforts to provide regional policy writ large, rather than on recognizing the differences among states on the basis of size, political maturity, culture, and geography. Although regional fora--such as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Defense Board (IADB)--are available to settle differences and provide educational opportunities, bilateral relations often are more successful because of easier agreement on the definition of specific policies, whether economic, security, or political.

U.S. Interests

There are four categories of U.S. interests in the region: economy, core values, security, and defense reform. Although these apply generally to all states of the region, geography plays an important role. Economic interests vary from trade integration (Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico), reform (Mexico, Brazil), and economic expansion (Central America, Caribbean), to salvage (Haiti, Cuba, and occasionally Mexico). The expansion of core values also applies unevenly. The English-speaking Caribbean, for example, has a long tradition of values compatible with the core, and most of this region accepts these values intellectually, if not always in actuality; Cuba rejects most civil liberties; Haiti has failed to implement even basic values. Security interests also vary dramatically. The most glaring difference is an inability to agree on what constitutes security. Different subregions have different concerns, which vary from state to state, including border security (Cuba, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Chile), domestic stability (Argentina, Central America), counterinsurgency (Colombia, Peru, Mexico), economic stability (Central America, Mexico), trade policy (the Caribbean), and ecosystem security (Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Haiti, Panama). Defense reform is applicable to all, largely because of the tradition throughout the region of viewing the armed forces as the "savior of the state," responsible for ensuring stability and defending sovereignty from all threats (foreign and domestic). The U.S. agenda calls for reform in the following areas:

Developing Trade and Integration

The expansion of trade has had a significant impact on U.S. foreign policy considerations in the hemisphere. Examples of policy reacting to economic pressure include:

Trade and investment are now viewed in the context of a global framework. The level of trade within the Western Hemisphere has grown consistently over the past decade, and the move to greater regional economic integration has accelerated that trend. The single largest U.S. trading partner is still Canada, and the largest regional trade bloc remains Latin America. Upward of 40 percent of Latin America's trade flows north, and 40 percent of U.S. (non-NAFTA) exports stay in the hemisphere. The U.S. merchandise trade surplus with the region surpassed $3.5 billion in 1996. A hemispheric free-trade zone was declared the centerpiece of U.S. policy in 1994, though as yet little tangible commitment is evident. The White House continues to seek fast-track negotiating authority from Congress, though there are serious domestic objections to overcome. Competition from Europe and Asia is increasing as Central and South American markets seek to expand into a region abandoned by the United States. This trend may not continue if fast-track negotiating authority is not achieved anytime soon.

The interest in regional markets will not change in the long run, except what will result from political links of trade to other issues, such as performance on human rights or counterdrug policies. There will be minor variations in trade patterns and these will be temporary, but fast-track negotiating authority is much more important than such conditionality.

Expanding the Core


The hemisphere is for the most part in the process of democratization, though commitment is not yet complete. The U.S. objective of encouraging democratic governance has advanced rapidly, although over a rocky path. Recent overviews point out dramatic differences between current popularly elected governments and those of only 15 years ago, when the majority were authoritarian or military dictatorships. Although the region does boast of democratically elected governments in all but one state, civil-military relations remain uneven, and civil unrest is now more prevalent than in recent decades. Latin America's tradition of personality-based governance is strong: Fidel Castro has been in power in Cuba since 1959; Presidents Carlos Menem in Argentina, Alberto Fujimori in Peru, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso in Brazil all have changed their national constitutions to perpetuate their tenure in office; the presidents of Chile and Nicaragua cannot remove the head of the armed forces; the presidents of Ecuador, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and Guatemala rely heavily on the military for support; President Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia is a former dictator; and in 1998, Paraguay may elect as president a former Army general who attempted a coup against the current president. That these examples persist despite the increase in democratization is evidence of the strong tradition of personality-based power politics. Some analysts argue that the current wave of democratization is cyclical and will fall to a new wave of personality-based authoritarian regimes.

A decrease in defense budgets or reduction in military forces has accompanied the move toward democratically elected governments in Latin America. In many countries, the armed forces and police are a major component of the government presence outside the major cities, and reductions have resulted in increased common street crime. A second impact has been a change in economic policy toward a market-based system, accompanied by a decrease in the living standard, especially among the better educated middle classes, as well as high unemployment rates. The general impression is that civilian-led governments mean economic ruin and less personal security. Many agree that civil liberties are a good goal but that the economic costs may outweigh the benefits, at least in the short run.

Cuba, the region's fading rogue state, continues to be opposed to the democratic values and free-market practices that now characterize the Southern Hemisphere. Washington continues to isolate Cuba economically and diplomatically, forcing the issue and encouraging change through such measures as the 1996 Helms­Burton Act. This controversial approach has forced other states (particularly in Europe) to become themselves more active in promoting political and economic change on the island. A change of regime in Cuba does not appear imminent. Although expectations were raised by Pope John Paul II's visit in January 1998, significant political change is not likely to occur before Castro leaves power.

Human rights

A major factor guiding U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America has been an emphasis on human rights. The U.S. experience with counterinsurgency operations and its past support for, recognition of, and relations with military dictators and rumors of complicity in human rights violations have given rise to many nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) intent on monitoring such behavior. Particular attention is now paid to the connection between the U.S. military and its counterparts in the region and on demanding accountability from either the White House or Congress. It is in Washington's interest to highlight this factor as part of its effort to expand core values to transition states. Cuba is the primary recipient of human rights attention at the policy level; Colombia and Mexico are on the list as well because of the on-going insurgencies--the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN) in the former, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the latter--while the populations of Argentina and Chile deserve support for clearing up past abuses. And yet the United States must write policy with the understanding that these situations (especially in Argentina and Chile) have not been fully resolved. Judicial reform is required to increase the rule of law and order and to strengthen the concept of justice and equality in governance.

Sailors from USS Callaghan with seized cocaine

While there are indications that much work is yet to be done in this important area, democratic governments have all shown a commitment to improving their performance. It is important, however, to note that many of the cases of human rights abuse have not been perpetrated by agents of the government, but rather by such nonstate actors as terrorists, insurgents, paramilitary organizations, and organized crime groups.

Reducing the Threat of
Nonstate Actors


One major strategic interest for the United States is to reduce the flow of illegal drugs throughout the hemisphere and across its own borders. Drug-trafficking and money-laundering operations are conducted with such sophistication and involve such large sums of money that they penetrate (or at least threaten) every law enforcement institution, judicial system, and bank and financial institution in all the Americas. Although the degree of access, impunity, and corruption may vary, states of immediate concern include Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. The growing consensus is that cooperation, both bilateral and multilateral, is a large component of the fight against this transnational threat. But, as in all things, style can be as important as substance in cooperation: respect for sovereignty is the starting point for effective cooperation.

Apart from the deleterious effects on society, the underground culture created by the illegal trade fosters a mentality and creates forces that work against civil governance. Though this section overlaps with the discussion of nonstate threats in chapter 13, the effect of drugs on security in the hemisphere is worth emphasizing. Illegal drugs are a serious component of instability in the Andean region (where plants used to make drugs are grown), the Caribbean and Central America (transit zones), and North America (consumption and transit). One element common to all these regions is the violence associated with the drug trade, which threatens the stability and sovereignty of several states, including Colombia, Mexico, and several Caribbean island states, and also threatens domestic safety and governance both in transit states such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Canada, and consumption states such as the United States, Japan, and most of Europe.


Within the Western Hemisphere migration is generally caused by the impact of economic policy, rather than by issues of security and safety as was the case a decade ago throughout Central America. The states primarily affected (apart from the United States) include Mexico, Haiti, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and those of Central America; rampant poverty and inadequate property laws are generally cited as reasons to emigrate to the United States. A major complicating factor is the volume of remittances from migrants (legal and illegal); Mexico and El Salvador estimate that over $2 and $3 billion a year, respectively, are provided by their "economic refugees" in the United States The volume may be lower in the Caribbean, but the percentage of GDP is much higher, given the Caribbean's lower overall volume of economic activity. Every year about 275,000 illegal migrants manage to elude Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) efforts to stop them and join the 5.4 million illegal aliens already in the country. States affected most are (in order) California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, and Arizona. About 80 per cent of the immigrants come from within the hemisphere.

U.S. policy is linked closely to migration. People fleeing poverty or violence at home are motivated by "push" factors, while the U.S. policy on migration acts either as a "pull" or "stop" factor, inviting migrants to leave or preventing them from leaving home in hope of finding a better way of life. Without the pull factor, many would prefer to wait out push factors in hope of improving their lot at home. For instance, U.S. policy toward Haitian refugees during General Cedras' dictatorship was one of acceptance, so the number of Haitians taking to boats was high. When the administration changed its policy to one of either returning migrants to Haiti or sending them to holding camps in Guantanamo or Guyana, the number of refugees plummeted.

U.S. Coast Guard intercepting Haitian refugees

Maintaining a Secure Environment

During the Cold War, U.S. defense policy toward Latin America was oriented toward keeping the region a neutral security environment that required little attention from DoD. Containment of communism was a major mission, but U.S. policy recognized that national militaries within the region would dictate their own versions of just what constituted containment. With the end of Cold War, the goal of maintaining a security-neutral region is still difficult to achieve. Border conflicts (Peru and Ecuador), insurgent instability (Colombia, Peru, Mexico), and illegal drug production operations (Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia) are difficult to contain. What remains is the effort to maintain stability, a difficult enough prospect in a region struggling to define the proper balance of relations between civilian governance and armed forces. The traditional U.S. geostrategic view emphasizes a special relationship with the Caribbean Basin because of the traditional sea lines of communication (SLOC) between, for instance, New Orleans and Europe, or transiting the Panama Canal. Any threat to those SLOC directly affects U.S. trade with the world, increasing the threat to U.S. sovereignty. That nonstate actors use these same SLOC cannot be lost on Washington, given the tremendous cost and effort involved in locating the thousands of islands and shipping routes and protecting them from criminal activity.

Current Trends

Economic Integration

The economic trend of the region is toward increasing trade integration, though not necessarily regional integration. The Mercado Comun del Coro Sur (MERCOSUR) will remain the premier South American grouping, to which Chile may someday become a full member if accession to NAFTA is not forthcoming. But MERCOSUR has been showing signs of unrest: its principal members (Argentina and Brazil) recently negotiated an increase in tariffs without consulting the smaller or associate members. Disintegration is not on the horizon, however, if only for fear of losing out in the global arena of trading blocs.

Groupings other than MERCOSUR and NAFTA will arise. There have always been plans to combine the Central American markets. Mexico recently began negotiating to open its markets to Nicaragua initially, and to the other Central American markets shortly thereafter. The Andean Group may attain viability, following the pattern of MERCOSUR; CARICOM and other Caribbean groupings will intensify efforts to expand and succeed. The main thrust of this trend is the 1994 Miami Summit declaration of intent to form a hemispheric free-trade bloc by the year 2005. Such subregional groupings are attempts to integrate and form stronger negotiating positions prior to joining NAFTA or any new regional arrangement with North America.

But not all is as idealistic as was expected after the Miami Summit. MERCOSUR, perhaps taking a cue from the U.S. Congress, now spends more in Europe than in the United States. Asian markets, despite the recent downtrend, have made significant inroads into South America as, for instance, Chile, Peru, and Colombia seek to increase relations across the Pacific. The failure of the Clinton administration to secure fast-track authority for Chilean admission to NAFTA was a major blow to the region's confidence that the United States was finally beginning to pay significant, consistent economic attention to its immediate neighborhood. Should fast-track authority fail again in 1998, the objective of the Miami Summit of a regionwide free-trade zone by 2005 will crumble and South American markets will seek to join agreements elsewhere. In other words, though the trend appears favorable to U.S. interests, economic interests have not reached their fullest potential.

On the other hand, the region's economies performed in 1997 at their best level in 25 years. The combined average growth rate was 5.3 percent, with an inflation of less than 11 percent. Foreign investment totaled $73 billion, though the trade gap with the United States grew to $60 billion. Such growth spurred more export industries, especially in intraregional trade, which increases economic interdependence and trade integration.

Exceptions: Cuba and Haiti

Cuba and Haiti will be the exceptions. Fidel Castro still sees no reason to change his statist economic policy and will continue to limp along, blaming the United States for his lack of success while relying on remittances from Miami and the black market to feed and clothe the Cuban population. Haiti, the region's failed state, also will continue to rely on remittances, drug money, and foreign assistance to remain marginally viable as a state. Barring a drastic change in the philosophy of governance in both states, there is no hope for integration with regional associations, let alone global trading arrangements.


The problem of corruption, in which formal political organizations are steadily undermined in their capacity to operate efficiently, cannot be overstated. Briefly, corruption may be defined as the misuse of public office for private interests. Political corruption is widespread in numerous states in the hemisphere and is accompanied by violence that weakens the state's capacity to operate effectively. For example, bribery of officials has long been a successful method of operating in the political life of most of the region. It has been used to pay for immunity from criminal prosecution by the members of organized crime as well as to distort the workings of a variety of public offices. This situation is compounded by society's tolerance of illegality: respect for the law tends to deteriorate when exposed to blatant disregard. Colombian economist Dr. Francisco Thoumi describes corruption as an illegality and dishonesty trap: in a society in which dishonesty and corruption are rampant, behaving honestly becomes costly.

Where organized crime has made a significant inroad, as in Mexico, Colombia, Jamaica, Haiti, and Bolivia, corruption has so undermined legitimacy that these states have at times been unable to guarantee even the most basic order for their citizens. Coupled with the use of extreme violence, this has not only led to a crisis of legitimacy in the criminal justice systems but also has allowed criminal groups to operate with relative impunity for a long time.

One of the most prevalent forms of corruption in the region is clientelismo, or patron-client relationships, in which people are placed in positions of authority on a basis other than merit. Rather than being agents of government, in a region where an effective civil service does not exist such individuals are the government. Private individuals use public offices for personal aggrandizement or favorable advantage to themselves and their friends and associates. Many government offices tend therefore to be overstaffed with persons whose particularistic loyalties lie in roles and relations, rather than in rules and regulations. Nepotism, connections, petty bribery, and other means of acquiring private influence and advantage glut the public realm and do little to advance policies needed by the state. Official transactions abound with red tape, requiring seals and signatures to conform to detailed, archaic legal formalities. This practice slows the process of systems such as justice to the advantage of individuals who expedite matters for a fee.

In Colombia and Mexico (and formerly in Peru), there is the added threat of plomo ó plata (bullets or money), in which officials are forced at gunpoint to use their position to help criminals--making a bribe the more acceptable option.

Democracy in Transition

Numerous Latin American states have been characterized as democratic or as riding the "third wave" of democratization, but the use of the word democracy has led to confusion about the actual situation in these countries. Elections are regularly held, and opposition parties exist in most Latin American states. Nonetheless, politics are often largely elitist and based on clientelism and skewed patterns of income and wealth. Perhaps the gravest obstacle to true democracy is the lack of a comprehensive, coherent system of justice (including courts, police, and corrections) to deal with escalating problems of organized crime, violence, and corruption.

Some easily definable obstacles to the formulation of effective systems of justice are the problems they confront. Much of the success of a justice system depends on the methods the society employs to achieve social control and on whether these methods are compatible with one another. In Latin America, the traditional strategies of deterrence and retribution in law and order often conflict, rather than work in coordination: the demand for deterrence steadily increases, while the demand for retribution remains relatively weak. Retribution involves actively seeking out and punishing those who break the laws of the society, but many who deserve punishment are so efficient at intimidating and suborning members of the justice systems that the fear of violence as well as the prevalence of corrupt personnel disrupt the system.

Such a setting is a magnet for private power brokers. Presumably, operating illegal businesses and bypassing a system are easier where order is lacking and public institutions are rife with patronage and graft. The problem for law and order is that whenever some brave and honest government officials do attempt to halt the spread of illegal activity, broken links in the chain of command make extortion and bribery effective in countering such efforts.

When the instruments of coercion land in the hands of groups other than the government, communities are subject to still more arbitrary and personally motivated interests. An informal sector parallel to government institutions exists at lower levels throughout society in Latin America. Entire towns or portions of large cities do not exist on official government maps or tax rolls, having sprung up from squatters' rights movements on unused government or private land, e.g., Brazil's favelas or Colombia's tuburios. These informal governments have all the trappings of a formal sector, such as police, justice, services, medical institutions, transportation. In some parts of Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, insurgents and drug mafias have replaced the state as the governing authority. Drug barons have penetrated these countries' political and legal institutions to the point where they virtually form a "state within a state," fostering relations with the local government or providing the populace with housing and social services. However magnanimous the acts of these groups are, these self-appointed leaders were not democratically chosen by the people. Rather, they have insinuated themselves, using large quantities of money, operating with relative impunity, and using the "law of the jungle" to dispense their largesse and justice.

One unfortunate result of these systemic and insidious problems is that governments attempting to democratize are foundering. Their chronic inability to stop the escalation of violence and corruption has led to their legitimacy being increasingly brought into question. Not only must a government be constrained in its ability to carry out its policies by a constitution and the rule of law, and thereby held accountable for its actions; it must also fulfil the first duty of government--to maintain order. Equality and liberty, the essentials of a liberal democracy, can be exercised only in the presence of a peaceful social order.

When the state loses legitimacy, the government begins to fracture along personal or familial lines where persons or parties jockey for position and control over diminishing resources. Such loyalties, in turn, take precedence over the commitment to public policies, even the constitution, diverting the energy and attention of those working in the public realm to a free-for-all.

Foremost consideration must be given to building on and preserving existing law and legal institutions. Antiterrorist policies in liberal democracies should not involve reprisals against segments of the population thought to be sympathetic to outlaws. Governments that respond to violence by using indiscriminate force will not only be resorting to the same practice as the terrorists but also strengthening whatever support the outlaw groups may enjoy. Security forces and police or military units given the task of combating violence should be closely monitored to ensure that they operate within the law to whose defense they are committed. Civilian control must be retained over their activities through executive policy, legislative oversight, and judicial constraints. All these are necessary: no one or two will suffice.

But all is not gloom and doom. NGOs have sprung up throughout the hemisphere, demonstrating the strength of democracy through grass-roots movements to demand proper governance. The call for opening or liberalizing party systems is strong, raising the hope and expectation that democracy is not merely a periodic fad. Optimism is moderated by a healthy dose of realism. Democratic rule is bucking 500 years of authoritarianism, a tradition that will take more than a decade to overcome.

Civil-Military Relations

Implicit in the suggestion of increased oversight of the region's armed forces is the concept of civilian control over those forces. Latin America does not have a tradition of balanced civil-military relations, as understood by the core. The regional tradition of vesting the armed forces with the role of "savior of the state" and "guarantor of the constitution and the people's rights" flies in the face of the core definition of civil-military relations based on civilian supremacy and guidance, two factors marginally present in or completely absent from most of the hemisphere. Most of the region's armed forces are charged by national charter to be the final arbiter of state sovereignty, with a mission of preserving order from all threats, foreign and domestic, at the expense, if necessary, of the civilian government. U.S. guidance to increase professionalization--that is, to emphasize technical expertise, organization, and training in the arts of war--has been interpreted as increasing emphasis of traditional missions, including the military operating politically in a praetorian manner, taking power as an unaccountable political broker maintained through the use or threat of force. The standard answer of the Latin American militaries has been that they are indeed professional and always have been.

The trend in civil-military relations has been slowly changing as the militaries grow more comfortable with the concept of not retaining responsibility for guiding civilian governments, but the absence of civilian expertise on security issues remains a major problem. U.S. pressure to subordinate authority to the civilian government may succeed in form but not function, unless civilian expertise and guidance increase markedly. Thus far, not one defense policy in the region has been issued from a civilian ministry of defense or the presidency. The case of Argentina is illustrative: after five years of consecutive reductions in the defense budget, the Menem administration has yet to provide a defense policy on which the ministry of defense can base a credible reorganization to match what amounts to an 80 percent budget cut. Colombia's situation is worse; it is fighting a war on at least three fronts with no stated defense policy from either the ministry of defense or the civilian government. In a sense, past experience is at fault. Authoritarian regimes in Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay wrote defense policies later used to justify "dirty wars" and other depredations on the civilian population. This experience provides a disincentive for either civilian governments or military institutions: civilians fear a repeat of the misuse of such policy, and the military fears a repeat of the justice imposed after the fact for doing what it considered the ruling elites' dirty work.

EZLN insurgents in Mexico

There is no strong trend in the hemisphere toward improving civil-military relations, other than the inertia of getting used to dealing with each other in an environment of liberal democratic governance. Civilian demands to reform the military to curb human rights abuses negate the inability of the civil sector to reform the capacity of judicial systems for oversight or justice. Military complaints of civilian ignorance of defense issues is negated by the habit of ignoring civilian oversight or guidance. An optimistic scenario is for inertia to continue uninterrupted so that time can heal past wounds. In this area DoD can exert diplomacy, playing a key role as a model establishment, guiding by example, as well as providing training and education to both military and civilian personnel working on security issues. Brazil and Chile have produced "white papers" on security issues, an unprecedented step for the region. These papers' existence, together with an increase in the volume and quality of academic fora debating security issues, provides evidence of progress in improving civil-military relations, and more should be encouraged.

Drug Mafias

The illegal drug market long ago achieved stability and, in some cases, saturation, and that situation is unlikely to change any time soon. Without a major change in counterdrug policy and methodology, the only measurable change in the market will be in methods of smuggling or in market taste. There are indications that cocaine is no longer the drug of choice; heroin and synthetics have been making headway against "king coca." But the basic market forces are the same and the risk factors and smuggling methods remain almost static, while the profitability of synthetics provides the only dynamic change, as different suppliers and smugglers rise and fall with their success or failure in capturing market share.

Thus far, the switch to synthetics has assisted the Mexican mafias' rise in importance, based on proximity to the United States and ease of production. Colombian mafias have increased their market share of the heroin market, while U.S. producers have retained or gained some of the marijuana market. Extra-hemispheric groups are making inroads into the business almost in direct proportion to the loss of control by the Colombian groups. Nigerian, Russian, and Asian groups have begun to compete strongly for large shares in the smuggling and distribution networks. This dispersion of the market makes it all the more difficult for U.S. counterdrug forces (including DoD) to mount sustained successful interdiction.

The making of drug policy in the Americas, north and south, has to date been characterized by reactive and incremental initiatives. Decisions made during crises (including political crises or elections) are often not the best solution for resolving problems. States where illicit drugs are produced and transited in many cases make drug policies based on domestic pressure (e.g., labor unions, indigenous rights groups) and on retaliatory violence perpetrated by organized criminals. The result has been "quick fixes" (e.g., the certification process or nationalistic reaction to U.S. policy, transit vs. source interdiction operations, eradication) rather than long-term planning.

The primary security threat within the Hemisphere is international crime (e.g., arms and drug trafficking). DoD is not well suited to resolving these threats, which are best dealt with through issue-specific multilateral or bilateral frameworks where the military has a supportive role. These frameworks should be judicial in nature, with strong law enforcement cooperation. Continued assistance to Latin America in developing professional judicial systems and law enforcement throughout the region is paramount.

Canada as a Transit Zone

The increasing problem of drug trafficking largely by Southeast Asian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern criminal groups through Canada has been largely ignored. Criminals have managed to gain Canadian passports under the Immigrant Investor Category requiring them only to invest in Canada and employ Canadians, guaranteeing them a Canadian passport or Landed Immigrant Status. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) maintains a post in Hong Kong to check the credentials of all migrants, although severe budgetary cutbacks hamper its efficiency.

Organized crime groups in Hong Kong and Taiwan have traditionally trafficked in heroin from the Opium Triangle (Laos, Cambodia, and Viet- nam) and are increasingly using the unprotected border the United States has enjoyed with Canada for the past century. Vancouver has become a focal point for these Asian Triads for the redistribution of heroin destined for other parts of Canada and the larger, more lucrative U.S. market. The Canadian Government, in its cost-saving measures, disbanded the Vancouver Port Police, leaving the task of patrolling Canada's most important Pacific coast port of entry to private security agencies and the already overworked and under-funded Vancouver Police. These private security firms have been involved in illicit contraband scandals; future use of the port as an entry point for illegal narcotics is only likely to increase.

Many criminals find that access to the United States is as easy as declaring the intention of going "shopping" for the day. Law enforcement officials have worked hard to coordinate efforts with the different police agencies in Canada, but diminishing resources on both sides hamper these efforts (e.g., the closing of the Drug Enforcement Agency office in Vancouver).

Toronto and Montreal also have become important transit points for drugs from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Again, while the RCMP has been attempting to stop the flow of narcotics by cooperating with agencies in Europe and Interpol, its budget is well below those of well-funded, organized criminals.

Diplomatic pressure must stress the point that more cooperation among law enforcement agencies will go far in upholding Canadian sovereignty in the long run. The current trend of using Canada as a transit point for illicit drugs pushes that country into the drug war more than it wishes, even to the point of harming the important trade between it and the United States, and perhaps permanently damaging the good relations the two countries currently enjoy.

Hemispheric Security

The trend in the United States is to think of hemispheric security as an over-arching framework (e.g., continuing or expanding the Defense Ministerial, improving the Inter-American Defense Board, or developing a new organization), but at the same time there is a trend also toward avoiding such comprehensive efforts, increasing subregional integration, and creating ad hoc groupings to deal with specific, time-limited issues.

From the Latin American viewpoint, the asymmetrical balance of power in favor of the United States has obstructed and will continue to hinder the formation of any multilateral military organization, for fear that the United States will dominate it. In a collective security framework such as the Rio Treaty or a cooperative framework such as the IADB, member states cede to that organization a measure of autonomy in military decisionmaking. States in the region have long viewed the military as a nation-building force and the final arbiter of national sovereignty, and they closely link national autonomy to national sovereignty. This link creates an almost insurmountable obstacle to the creation of coalition forces and implementation of the concept of shared command. An overarching multilateral framework in Latin America would be seriously undermined by the need of U.S. military strategy, because of its global responsibilities, always to reserve the right to act unilaterally. Military leaders throughout the hemisphere demand a similar right, thus reducing the credibility and effectiveness of any multilateral security organization. But the idea of a multilateral organization such as the OAS is attractive to Latin America, to reinforce international law and provide the possibility of a unified front against overwhelming U.S. influence.

Perhaps the most that can be accomplished is to strengthen subregional groupings. Latin America strongly adheres to the principle of nonintervention and respect for national sovereignty and has approached conflict resolution through limited military action, most involving only observers. During the Dominican Republic crisis of 1965, Latin American states viewed the OAS Inter-American Peace Force as a multilateral disguise for U.S. unilateral intervention. Since then, the only missions to include a substantial number of Latin American forces have been UN peacekeeping and enforcement operations, such as the UN observer missions in El Salvador and Central America. OAS participation was most successful during the 1969 Soccer War but reverted to minimal activity during the coups in Haiti (1991), Peru (1992), and Guatemala (1994). Even after the strong solidarity demonstrated by the Declaration of Santiago (1991), the OAS resorted to generally ineffective political or economic action, eventually ceding authority to the United Nations.

Differing strategic and threat perceptions undermine U.S. efforts to form a collective security framework. Although U.S. military strategy involves reorienting traditional Latin American defense strategy away from a Cold War focus and toward cooperative security missions such as peacekeeping and counterdrug efforts, Latin American senior officers view these missions as secondary to protection of national borders and sovereignty. The political will might exist among the civilian leadership, but in nations where the military has gained a high level of autonomy and self-sufficiency, the military's prerogative to defend the nation's sovereignty cannot easily be changed. Military officers throughout the hemisphere (including the United States) have publicly expressed the feeling that multilateral operations within the region or outside (e.g., Croatia, Crete, Sinai) potentially weaken the military's ability to respond to primary security roles.

Naval Coalition Exercises

The navies of Latin America have led the way in establishing military-to-military contact, because they can do so without raising nationalistic issues such as sovereignty and constitutional bans on foreign military forces within state boundaries. The most successful coalition operation has been UNITAS, now in its 38th year. A U.S. Navy task force circumnavigates the continent, conducting bilateral or multilateral operations, practicing navigation, underway replenishment, gunnery, search and rescue, and occasionally missile-firing exercises. Similar naval operations include DRAGAO (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, and South Africa), ARAEX (Brazil and Argentina naval air), IBEREX (Brazil, Argentina, and Spain), Fuerzas Unidas (United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), GREY GHOST (United States and Argentina), and FLEETEX exercises between the United States and Chile.

A major factor in the success of UNITAS is the absence of sovereignty issues, given that exercises take place in international waters. Were a method for adapting the UNITAS concept to army or air force exercises available, it could enhance military-to-military relations dramatically. But armies and air forces need land, which raises the sovereignty issue that so far has precluded anything more than occasional, temporary bilateral exercises.

Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have employed bilateral negotiations and confidence-building measures to diffuse any possible conflict. They have engaged, or have planned to engage, in bilateral military exercises: Brazil and Argentina have conducted joint naval exercises since 1976 and recently began joint peacekeeping and air force exercises; Chile and Argentina will conduct their first joint military exercises in 1998.

Shaping the Strategic Environment

Promoting Confidence

The best way to enhance regional confidence is to provide coherent, stable policy guidance and remain continually engaged in Latin America. At the same time the global role of the United States means that its strategic and security interests lie elsewhere. The concept of Latin America as a geopolitically secure area is still valid: as long as there is no overarching threat or lots of conflict, there is little reason to direct much DoD attention there.

Chilean submarine Thompson

The region's history has demonstrated that states will ultimately resort to resolving problems through ad hoc groups involving only the affected states. Such groups can be disbanded when their objectives have been met, leaving behind no framework that the United States (or anyone else) could use to push a unilateral agenda. Current security threats are localized and therefore viewed differently throughout the region. Localization can render attempts to create a formal multilateral organization ineffective owing to traditional concerns for sovereignty. Consensus will be reached only on the lowest common denominator and thus will produce an insufficient response to security problems. Without a common definition of what constitutes a security problem, frequent defections occur, further eroding consensus.

The solution is to concentrate on improving bilateral relations throughout the region while encouraging ad hoc groupings based on shared or common interests. Specific issues, which will probably be decided by events, are likely to include counter-drug operations (one group for source countries such as Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Mexico, and three groups for transit areas, including the Caribbean, Central America, and South America) and counterinsurgency (Colombia and its immediate neighbors). Other missions include containment of state failure (Colombia and its immediate neighbors and Haiti, Cuba, and their Caribbean neighbors), and border conflicts (Military Observer Mission, Ecuador-Peru, or MOMEP). The principal difference between what currently exists and what is proposed here is that ad hoc groupings, unlike overarching multilateral or bilateral arrangements, dissolve after the primary mission or objective has been met.

Although the United States has been reluctant to use current defense structures to address security issues in the hemisphere adequately, it has leeway for guiding the debate on security and influencing policy outside of these structures. Defense diplomacy need not be hemispheric in nature: it is possible to secure the U.S. objective of cooperation and stability through bilateral relations alone. But neither option is necessary, as experience has shown a hemispheric preference for subregional groupings with a mutual-interest agenda and short duration. U.S. policy, with a history of sporadic, short-attention-span incursions in the region, would need little to adapt to this style. For instance, defense diplomacy could focus on the Southern Cone to stress hemispheric cooperation in a global context (e.g., the free-trade area of the Americas by 2005). No comprehensive hemispheric policy need be written for counterdrug issues when only the Andean region is involved. The Caribbean is not cohesive either, and as a region for policy could be divided into at least three groupings: Cuba, English-speaking, and drug transit zone. Central America, too, lends itself to division because of states' different experiences and security requirements. Under this type of defense diplomacy, a need to work toward gradual coordination of defense interests, policies, and cooperation would be unnecessary. Such coordination would be required only among states (or militaries) with similar conditions and interests.

Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents

That does not mean there is no use for forums such as defense ministerials, in which all parties coordinate general guidelines and debate broad-brush issues of general mutual concern. Moving relationships within the hemisphere to a more mature level will require the patrón to give up his absentee status and actually lead, where necessary, in a role the United States is naturally capable of filling. But security policy does not need to be conducted at the hemispheric level.

Diplomacy can be used to encourage bilateral agreements and promote confidence-building measures to foster understanding and to prevent regional conflicts. Joint exercises, like UNITAS, those taking place among Argentina, Brazil, and Chile, and those planned in Central America under the aegis of the Conferencia de Fuerzas Armadas de Centro America, should be encouraged. They will increase policy transparency and prepare neighbors for joint action, should the need ever arise.

Creating Complementary Capabilities

For ad hoc groupings of mutual interest to work, the armed forces of participant states must work well together, if not combine forces outright. In this respect, Latin America is closer to the Asian model of cooperation than to the European model. Interoperability is always a desirable objective to pursue in the hemisphere, though hard to justify in the absence of a unifying threat.

The principal reason for interoperability is to be able to combine complementary forces during operations conducted for mutual benefit, which include counterdrug actions, peacekeeping operations, containment of state failure, or border wars. Reduced defense budgets make shared responsibility for security an attractive option, although the current orders of battle in most cases require scrapping existing forces and buying new ones. As attractive as that is to weapons manufacturers, the initial driving force (budget reductions) precludes interoperability through replacement. Thus a longer term approach is needed.

The new U.S. policy on high-tech arms sales in Latin America will initially benefit U.S.-Chile relations (through the possible sale of F­16s) but in the long run will benefit the United States and its friends in South America by increasing interoperability through the simple expedient of selling them U.S. systems. Critics argue that such sales undermine security by providing expensive systems that answer no specific external threat and yet increase the strength and economic power of the military. But as the armed forces modernize through new acquisitions (based on domestic requirements), the United States will assist in creating complementary capabilities and enhancing ad hoc coalitions. Mutual trust will increase, because high-tech sales indicate a willingness to trust the armed forces of the region to use such materiel in a manner consistent with core values.

Promoting Defense Reform

The critical defense reform in Latin American countries is in civil-military relations. Governments need assistance reconciling a strongly held corporate tradition in defense and military affairs with an unfamiliar, liberal tradition more supportive of democratic norms. A key factor in supporting a transition is the competence of civilian officials with defense responsibilities in the executive and legislative branches of government and in the private sector. Aside from demonstrating the subordination of militaries to civil authorities whenever possible, U.S. defense capabilities need to become associated with regional engagement. Examples include the education of military officers and defense civilians at the Inter-American Defense College and the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, technical assistance establishing tailored defense management structures (use of contractors), and DoD-sponsored events (staff talks, conferences, seminars) in the region to facilitate civil-military dialogue.

A major deficiency is Cuba, where currently DoD is precluded from direct engagement. An indirect approach is needed, possibly using defense diplomacy by encouraging or financially supporting core partners to interact with Cuban officers, such as attending their professional schools and increasing U.S. participation in expanded multilateral operations or projects.

Fora for debating security commonalities at all levels, such as the Inter-American Naval Conferences, the Defense Ministerial, Conference of American Armies, and Conference of American Air Forces, should also continue to be encouraged. The IADB should continue its role as an important organization for cooperation, consultation, research, and advice to the OAS on security issues. All these fora will help create a sense of trust among neighboring military establishments, which will foster a friendly environment in the hemisphere for U.S. forces, if ever required.

Using Force

Because of the history of forceful intervention in the region, the projection of force in the hemisphere is a tough topic to tackle. There are, nonetheless, specific situations in which the use of U.S. forces could be brought to bear.

Contain expansion of instability

This scenario involves two situations: a loss of sovereignty and the war on drugs. Should Colombia's future involve the loss of state sovereignty to insurgents or transnational organized crime, it is feasible that U.S. assistance would be sought to resolve the situation. But the call may not come directly from Colombia: instability along the borders could spill over to neighboring states, to the point where a coalition could be formed to either contain the fighting or assist government forces in regaining control from the FARC, ELN, or drug mafias.

Policy to combat the traffic in illicit drugs requires a comprehensive multifaceted plan to predict possible outcomes and alternatives. Relying on reactive policy to combat the problem (e.g., measuring success in terms of price and seizures) will not produce a solution. For example, counter-drug agreements take years of laborious diplomacy and negotiation, but a fluid criminal trafficking group can alter its transportation and routes in mere days. More attention is needed to international cooperation, mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, extradition to a third country, and harmonizing legal systems. The posturing of sovereign governments contributes to a mentality of "form over function" and should be avoided.

This could be accomplished by training crime-fighting units to use common operating procedures, to recognize that the enemies of one are the enemies of all, and to harmonize command structures. NATO was an efficient vehicle for combating Cold War enemies; a similar structure would not be difficult to achieve to fight the common enemy in the war on drugs. Nationalism and diplomacy must be set aside in order to acknowledge that the new threat is transnational criminal groups and that only concerted, planned policy initiatives will bring about their demise.

Patrolling the Border

DoD is increasingly under pressure about its policy of patrolling the 2,000-mile border with Mexico. Along the border the military has assisted by providing a force 170 personnel, conducting over 3,000 operations since 1990. The military's role to date includes operating listening posts to assist the INS Border Patrol in tracking drugs and migrants, building fences and barriers, repairing roads, and assisting law enforcement agencies in counterdrug operations.

Congress has proposed legislation authorizing the deployment of up to 10,000 troops to the border, but following a shooting incident in May 1997, when a marine shot and killed a young boy, DoD cut operations. It is a difficult mission for DoD, because the basic problem is one of law enforcement, not military operations. Yet law enforcement routinely finds itself confronting smugglers who have better weapons and greater manpower, which leads to requests for military support.

As the drug war continues to increase in complexity, so, too, will DoD support for law enforcement. The Navy is involved in Caribbean and Pacific operations but could be called on also to assist the Coast Guard in patrolling all the coastlines in search of sea and air infiltrators. This would involve writing rules of engagement for confrontations, possibly involving lethal force (e.g., shooting down aircraft that do not respond to requests for identification). Ground forces could be called on to support increased border patrol operations not only along the Mexican border but also the Canadian border, as smuggling routes change to meet the challenges presented by increased patrolling elsewhere.

Control damage in Cuba

The principal scenario for force projection in Cuba involves a loss of state control caused by a sudden change in regime structure. In other words, Fidel Casrto loses control or dies, causing a violent war of succession. The United States could be sucked into the power vacuum, most likely in a peacekeeping role, to separate warring parties and provide stability throughout a period of adjustment.

Contain damage of state failure

This scenario is a repeat of the 1994 involvement, restoring order from the chaos to which Haitian politics are wont to descend. As in the case of Cuba, the DoD role would be to separate the warring parties and provide stability so that other forces may work on restoring governance. This scenario would involve a heavy humanitarian component, providing food and clothing to the populace while the economic sector regained enough control to re-establish market forces.

Dramatically increase presence

The role of DoD in protecting the U.S. border by means of what is essentially a policing function remains highly debatable, but it is one that policymakers must at some point consider seriously if the effectiveness of the war on drugs is to be sustained in the future. The current emphasis on source and transit stage interdiction is not a complete plan, and stopping drugs at the border has not been effective. The drug smugglers are too sophisticated, fluid, and well armed for the existing border interdiction programs: DoD is an attractive option to policymakers to task with confronting this threat. This scenario involves using DoD assets to patrol all the U.S. borders (Canada, Mexico, the east and west coastlines, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands).


The Americas continue to be a region of tremendous potential for cooperation and coordination of mutual interests, ranging from economic (integration, expansion of trade), to governance (democracy, civil-military relations, human rights, migration), to security (border conflicts, insurgency), to nonstate threats (drug mafias, arms trafficking). Most trends associated with these interests are on a positive path in relation to U.S. strategic goals. Economic integration and expansion are on the rise; democratic governance is at record highs; strategic security interests do not threaten sovereignty anywhere in the region. Only the nonstate threats have produced cause for worry. Nevertheless, these trends are relatively weak. U.S. and Latin American policies related to issues of mutual interests do not always coincide; policy responds primarily to domestic pressure, resulting in self-serving or introspective rather than realistic solutions to problems or threats.

Corruption and different definitions of governance also work against mutual interests; although the rhetoric matches, practical application of policy often runs counter to the intention of laws and governance.

Thus, policy and reality are often in contradiction. Although in the past the United States has chosen to ignore the contradictions between law and practice inherent in the corruption in the region, the increasing regional integration makes it difficult to continue turning a blind eye.

Security policy has changed dramatically in recent years. Gone are the days requiring a coordinated, hemispheric policy. Gone, too, are the days of requiring a global mission from the regional military. Today's security policies concentrate on national priorities, to a great extent ignoring global or nonstate threats in favor of an increased emphasis on border disputes and domestic threats, not issues of interest to or involvement for DoD. These changes require a change in thinking, because they involve increased communications and coordination throughout the region, in the form of defense ministerials, conferences, and issue-specific liaison.

These changes also mean a new type of engagement in the region, one that emphasizes ad hoc, subregional groupings, instead of an overarching security framework. Dealing with the four principal threats requires engaging DoD assets or resources and must be approached with a new paradigm involving new actors or groupings:

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