Research: Publications

A Quick Tour of U.S. Defense and Security Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean

July 6, 1998 | Report


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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.

In fact, the U.S. relationship with Latin America's militaries is quite strong, according to a year-long study carried out by the Center for International Policy and the Latin America Working Group. What has changed since the cold war is the rationale for cooperation and the ability of Congress and the public to oversee military cooperation programs.

Joint training: The map illustrates the 214 visits that U.S. Special Forces paid to Latin America to train with the region's security forces during 1998. These deployments -- which include both "JCETs" and counternarcotics training -- are just one example of many inter-military cooperation programs that the United States carries out in the hemisphere.
It is difficult to grasp the entire extent of today's security assistance to the region, as aid and training are fragmented across a welter of programs and initiatives. Foreign military programs go through many channels within the U.S. government, governed by different laws, carried out by different bureaucracies, overseen by different offices within Congress, and publicized with different degrees of openness. The picture has grown still more complex in the 1990s. As the U.S. government shifts its security focus in the hemisphere toward counternarcotics, it is involving new agencies and creating new assistance programs.

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