Civil-military relations roundup

Latin America and the Caribbean

The degree of politicization of the Armed Forces is such that in November, constant insults from a group of people forced the commander of the Armed Forces to leave a restaurant in Santa Cruz.

[Gen. Edwin] Donayre is not just leaving the leadership of the Army. He is retiring, according to the law. His passage through the highest military post has been, without a doubt, the most controversial and the noisiest of recent years. He brought to his command a new style and a rather un-military excess: indiscretion.

The government says that one reason the military has been employed is that the firepower of drug traffickers far exceeds that of the local police. But the military also has its own deficiencies, which could be hampering the effort, says Roderic Camp, a Mexican military expert at Claremont McKenna College. "Their function is not as a police force. They don't have the kind of vehicles that chase civilian criminals," he says.

The Navy should continue with its constitutional mission and not risk dirtying its white uniforms with "black gold."

Retired Air Force Chief Gen. Juan Rafael Bustillo Toledo: "The FMLN says that they are against the amnesty law. I personally am against the amnesty because I would also like to see them judged, but unfortunately the peace accords allowed them to occupy political posts and now you can see, they have candidates for vice-president, congress, mayors who were part of the guerrillas, but you're not going to see military officers occupying political posts, except perhaps for two congressmen in the PCN and one in the PDC."

The objective of the militarization of the most conflictive barrios is, according to Brazil's Supreme Electoral Tribunal, to guarantee free exercise of the right to vote, after some candidates and residenced denounced having been victims of intimidation by narcotraffickers or paramilitaries who dominate the favelas, and who are pressuring for the election of their own candidates.

The changes in the Army high command, which included the exit of its chief upon confirmation that he faces a judicial investigation, reveals the extent of administrative anomalies and "gray zones" in the functioning of the armed forces that affect its ability to fully implement its tasks.

U.N.-backed Truth Commission found the army committed 85 percent of the civil war killings, including hundreds of massacres of civilians. Despite that brutal history, the decision to put more troops on the street to fight criminals is popular, as murder rates soar out of control with youth gang members, drug traffickers and corrupt police terrifying the population.