Virginia S. Williams and Jennifer Leigh Disney



Militarism and Its Discontents: Neoliberalism, Repression, and Resistance in Twenty-First Century US-Latin American Relations

Although much recent scholarship on Latin America focuses on the widespread political shift to the Left, this article examines military and political movements to subvert democracy in the region. This article explores the relationship between neoliberalism and militarism in Latin America in the context of the “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror.” One of the strongest elements of US Cold War policy in Latin America grew stronger in the new millennium: US military presence and training in the region. What may come as a surprise to some is that US military training and military spending in Latin America is now higher than it was during the Cold War. The “War on Drugs” and the “War on Terror” have been used as a pretext to justify increased militarization in the region, which has taken place primarily to repress resistance to neoliberalism. While 17 left-leaning presidents have been elected in Latin America, in countries like Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras, right-wing regimes currently hold power. Mexico has been increasingly militarized since the Zapatista rebellion in 1994. Honduras experienced a military coup that overthrew a left-leaning democratically elected president in 2009. Columbia is in its 50th year of civil war. As a result, these three countries provide the best case studies for examining militarism and neoliberalism in the region. Using the cases of Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras, we contend that militarism and neoliberalism in Latin America are operating in the following ways: (1) neoliberal globalization has led to increasing poverty and inequality in the region; (2) neoliberalism requires increased military expenditures to repress resistance and/or impose neoliberal structural adjustment policies in order to perpetuate the interests of dominant class elites in particular and capital accumulation in general; (3) US military training of Latin American armed forces increases military and paramilitary violence, reinforces US hegemony, buttresses the imposition of neoliberal policies, and subverts democracy in the region.

neoliberalism, militarism, paramilitary violence, democracy, Latin America, Colombia, Mexico, Honduras

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 41, No. 3 (2014): 1-28


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