The U.S. military relationship with Latin America decisions through a top-down, hierarchical structure is evolving rapidly, as the “war on terror” replaces the cold war and the “war on drugs” as the guiding mission for Washington’s assistance programs in the region. Though U.S. attention is fixed on other parts of the world, the scope of military aid is steadily increasing in our own hemisphere.
Since September 11th, the Bush Administration has moved forcefully to eliminate and scale back the reports required by Congress regarding military programs. Particularly alarming for public and congressional oversight of foreign policy are efforts to curtail reporting on training for foreign militaries. Behind- the-scenes attempts to remove public reports from law are increasing and threatening to reduce transparency over some of the U.S. government’s riskiest and most controversial overseas activities.
In early September 2001, Congress was debating a number of national security issues involving Latin America, including the Bush Administration's new Andean counterdrug initiative and the continued U.S. military presence on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. While still critically important in the region, both dropped to barely perceptible blips on Washington's political ra- dar screen after September 11th. While U.S. military pro- grams will continue in Latin America, they are likely to undergo some changes as the United States responds to the terrorist attacks.
For at least a century, the United States has heavily aided the security forces of Latin America and the Caribbean. U.S. military aid and training programs reached their high-water mark during the cold war, when Washington viewed the region’s often repressive and corrupt armed forces as a bulwark against Soviet communism. When the cold war ended, however, the closeness and significance of the U.S. military relationship with the region did not.