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Think tanks say U.S. should cease 'militarization' of Latin America

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
September 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The United States should cease its increasing militarization of Latin and Central America, major think tanks say. Policies have seen the U.S. increasing its presence in the region's so-called "drug war," and more intervention is feared, once the military stand-down in both Iraq and Afghanistan is complete by 2014.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "The counter-drug bureaucracies in the United States are remarkably resistant to change, unwilling to rethink and reassess strategies and goals," Lisa Haugaard, director of the Latin America Working Group Education Fund which released the report along with the Center for International Policy.

"Bringing the military into the streets can result in grave human-rights violations," 
Haugaard adds. She notes U.S. involvement in poorly designed and heavy-handed counter-drug operations, such as one in Honduras in which four passengers in a river taxi were killed by a joint Honduran-DEA operation last year.

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Increased military investment in the region appears to be a much larger Pentagon strategy of maintaining a "light (military) footprint" in countries around the globe while bolstering its influence with local military institutions.

"You can train a lot of people for the cost of one helicopter," Adam Isacson, an analyst 
with the Washington Office on Latin America says.

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"What these developments mean is that the military role in foreign policy-making is becoming ever greater, and military-to-military relations come to matter more than diplomatic relations," Isacson said. "What does that mean for civil-military relations not only in the region, but also here at home?"

Describing U.S. policy as being "on auto-pilot," the 32-page report entitled "Time to 
Listen," says this is largely due to the powerful bureaucratic interests in the Pentagon and the Drug Enforcement Administration and their regional counterparts that have built up over decades.

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New security technologies, including drones, whose use by the U.S. and other countries is growing quickly throughout the region, and cyber-spying of the kind that prompted this week's abrupt cancellation by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff of her state visit in the U.S. next month.

Total U.S. aid to Latin America hit its highest level in more than two decades in 2010: 
Nearly $4.5 billion, due to the costs of the "Merida Initiative", a multi-year program for fighting drug-trafficking in Mexico and Central America. However, aid fell sharply in 2011, to just $2.5 billion - and is expected to decline to just $2.2 billion in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1.

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Military aid has declined to around $900 million, largely as a result of the phase-out of Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative. Central America is the only sub-region in which aid, including non-security assistance, is increasing significantly.

The report says that a worrisome trend is that some countries, especially Colombia, have 
begun training military and police forces in their neighbors, often with U.S. funding and encouragement.

To read the report, please follow this link: 

http://www.wola.org/sites/default/files/downloadable/Regional%20Security/Time%20to%20List
en/Time%20to%20Listen.pdf

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