IISS Latin America and the Illusion of Peace

IISS Latin America and the Illusion of Peace.

By David R. Mares

Latin American countries embraced liberal democracy as the antidote to the past ills of military dictatorships, human-rights abuses and extreme poverty. Yet, more than twenty years on, states are still embroiled in armed combat with rebels who export their violence and traffic drugs across borders, threatening to draw neighbouring states into conflict with one another. Throughout the region, there is a tendency to supplement diplomatic action with military posturing. As ideological rivalries reassert themselves and competition for resources increases, so does the risk that political confrontation may once again get out of hand and destabilise regional relations.

The regional security architecture is not well-suited to controlling these risks, and neither the US nor Brazil is playing the role of regional mediator. Though few incidents have escalated to war over the last two decades, the shifting regional power balance, together with a rise in authoritarian government and growth in defence spending, give cause for concern. This Adelphi analyses the sources of inter-state conflict in Latin America and the potential policy options to tackle the region’s cycle of instability.

David R. Mares is Professor of Political Science and Adjunct Professor, School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, University of California, San Diego.

‘This highly useful survey of contemporary Latin American security demonstrates how growing sub-national security threats and persistent inter-state disputes combine to make military disputes more likely. Integrating domestic politics and international strategy, it provides a nuanced explanation for when and where states Latin America resort to force, and what regional states and international organisations can do to diminish the risk of war.’

Harold Trinkunas, Professor, National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate College, Monterey, California 


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