Latin America and the illusion of peacePosted: 29/06/2012
The security architecture of Latin American is inadequate to prevent further military escalation in the region, said Professor David Mares at the IISS-US launch of the Adelphi Book, Latin America and the Illusion of Peace. Mares, professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego argued that Latin American nations must find different options for building a better architecture that would make the threat of force an unacceptable option and stress the necessity of Latin America as a zone of peace. He was joined at the launch by Michael Shifter, president of Inter-American Dialogue, who offered a more optimistic outlook for peace in the region.
Mares addressed the intricacies of balancing domestic politics and interstate relations within the region. Although Latin America was by no means heading towards another World War II, he said, states’ notion that the protection of national sovereignty is the highest priority had led to continued interstate conflict, such as recent conflicts between Colombia and Ecuador in 2008, and Nicaragua and Costa Rica in 2010. The unquestioned use of military force without the intention of war had threatened stability in the region for decades.
Mares noted the faulty security architecture in Latin America, which he said was not designed to prevent the use of military force. The architecture was based on the notion that real guarantees for security are democracy and economic integration, and that these would eventually lead to peace. However, Latin American democracy did not align with traditional democratic principles, Mares said, and noted that the minimal requirement of elections by no means satisfies the basic terms for peace. He argued that Latin America was far from any economic integration process that would achieve such a goal.
Shifter also acknowledged the warning signs for interstate conflict in Latin America, and noted a tendency for complacency by international bystanders. He agreed with Mares’s discussion of the region’s inadequate security architecture, but stated that there were promising signs of a transformation in Latin America, such as the reduction of poverty and inequality, and the expansion of the middle class. These element were leading to citizens having an increased stake in society, an important element in preventing escalation and encouraging peace.
States could not count on the good luck that interstate military provocation would not evolve into war, Mares concluded. The promotion of Latin America as a zone of peace would be a continual and challenging effort in the region.