Report: Militarized Democracy in the Americas 1/29/99

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The November/December 1998 issue of the NACLA Report on the Americas (North American Congress on Latin America) includes a special set of articles, "Militarized Democracy in the Americas: Faces of Law and Order." The "war on drugs" figures prominently among the forces undermining civilian supremacy and civil liberties. The trend is affecting the United States as well as Latin and South America.

The Emergence of Guardian Democracy, by J. Patrice McSherry, notes that "Since the end of the Cold War, the Clinton government and the Pentagon's Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) have aggressively pushed the Latin American militaries to assume an expansive and multidimensional role in confronting drug trafficking, terrorism, insurgency, immigration and refugee flows," as well as other traditionally civilian functions such as conflict resolution, social welfare and environmental protection.

In "A Military-Paramilitary Alliance Besieges Colombia," Ricardo Vargas Meza examines the impact of coca eradication programs on the nation of Colombia, including deadly armed conflict and the environmental impact of chemical fumigation on the fragile Amazonian ecosystem.

"Deadly Force: Security and Insecurity in Rio," by Steven Dudley, describes how criminal drug trafficking gangs have positioned themselves as protectors of law and order and providers of employment in this city plagued by abject poverty. "Washington's Addiction to the War on Drugs," by Peter Zirnite, discusses the consequences and failure of the Andean source country strategy over the past 28 years.

"Militarizing the Border Patrol," by Carol Nagengast, discusses the confluence of the drug and immigrant wars at the US-Mexico border, and the sharp increase in use of the military and the adoption of military-style equipment and tactics by the civilian Border Patrol agency. Nagengast's article takes us from the May 1997 shooting of 18 year-old Esequiel Hernandez by U.S. Marines in Redford, Texas, to Amnesty International's documentation of increasing violence and civil rights abuses by the Border Patrol against men, women and children, to the American Friends Service Committee's Immigration Law Enforcement Monitoring Project in Texas, Arizona and California. The article also discusses Low Intensity Conflict strategies, the involvement of the military in peacetime operations at multiple levels within society, and the adoption of military-style practices by civilian law enforcement. LIC presents a growing threat to the traditional separations between civilian and military institutions -- there is now even a periodical titled "Low Intensity Conflict and Law Enforcement." Anti-drug missions are an explicit function of LIC military doctrine.

Another article in this issue of the NACLA Report discusses the wave of deportations, in some cases to dangerous countries, of low-level nonviolent offenders. Drug offenders are among the most frequently deported, and there is no judicial review process or discretion on the part of any agency.

This issue, Volume XXXII, No. 3, November/December 1998, might still be available at some newstands or bookstores. If not, call NACLA at (212) 870-3146, e-mail [email protected] or visit for ordering and subscription information.

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Issue #76, 1/29/99 Your Tax Dollars at Work: US Developing Fungi to Kill Narcotics Plants | Higher Education Act Student Reform Effort | Rep. Ron Paul to Introduce Financial Privacy Legislation to Block Intrusive "Know Your Customer" Banking Rules | Hemp for Victory | Israel to Set Standards for Medicinal Use of Marijuana | Life for Nonviolent Juveniles Proposed in Virginia | The Lindesmith Center Drug Policy Seminar Series, January through April | Conferences and Events | Harm Reduction Training Institute, Winter '99 Calendar | Report: Militarized Democracy in the Americas | Editorial: Strange Logic
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