The recent warnings from politicians and academics about the re-emergence of Latin American military power as a threat to democracy are based on the expansion of armed missions in spheres such as the fight against drug trafficking and their role in crises such as the one that befell Bolivia. These concerns do not however reflect a reality in which armed forces have seen their resources dramatically reduced over recent decades and have come under the control of civilian governments. In reality the new role being played by the armed services has less to do with the growth in their political influence and more to do with the feeble efforts to modernise Latin America's civilian administrations. This failure has made them a key tool for civilian governments wanting to react to a crisis, whether a public health emergency or an epidemic of crime. Under these circumstances, it is essential that the region’s governments strengthen the armed forces' oversight and control mechanisms in order to be able to use their resources to tackle what promise to be years characterised by instability and violence in the region.
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