Below the Radar: U.S. Military Programs with Latin America, 1997-2007

Below the RadarTen years ago, our organizations launched a project to monitor U.S. military programs in Latin America. We did so out of concern that poor access to information made public and congressional oversight of such programs impossible. A myriad of funding mechanisms and programs presented a complex picture, and limited information was provided through a haphazard series of reports mandated by Congress. Today, the funding mechanisms and programs have only grown more numerous and complex, but some improvements in transparency have made it possible for a clearer picture to emerge.

We present here a summary of major trends over the past ten years, rather than the annual report we have usually provided. Our database on U.S. military programs in the region, drawn entirely from official U.S. government sources, which backs up this analysis, is available at

Why does having a clear picture of military aid programs matter? Military training and aid, even in peacetime, is not incidental to foreign policy and the U.S. image abroad. The relative balance and visibility of economic or military aid to a country affects public perceptions about the way the United States chooses to project its power.

In addition, the choice to fund, train and equip foreign militaries is perceived as a U.S. endorsement of those militaries. The United States plays an important role, for good or ill, in shaping military institutions and the roles they play within their societies. In many of these societies, military institutions have histories of political involvement, corruption and unaccountable power, and may have abused human rights with impunity. Given these high stakes, it is essential that decisions on U.S. military aid and training be made deliberately and carefully, based on information transparently available to Congress and the public.

Since the end of the Cold War conflicts in Central America, U.S. military programs with Latin America have received relatively little public attention. In essence, the U.S. military relationship with the region has largely flown “below the radar” of public attention. We believe that many of these programs and relationships merit greater public scrutiny. 

To read this report in Spanish, click this link:

Para leer este informe en español, haga click aqui: