Another reason I live in Latin America

Bolivian soldiers with flags

Bolivian troops march in Oruro on Day of the Sea, March 23, 2008.

The Flacso think tank in Chile surveyed Latin Americans to determine their level of support for the military. Not just whether they think their military forces are doing a good job, but whether their military forces should exist. Fifteen percent — one out of every seven people polled — opposed the existence of the military. This in countries (other than Costa Rica and Panama, which have no military) that use the military for all sorts of domestic law and order tasks, and where the mass media and governments presuppose the existence of a military to defend or recapture some aspect of national pride.

You can see how biased the commercial media is by the headline on the article linked above — “90% of Latin Americans Support Presence of Military” — if you then read the third paragraph of the story and see that the number is really 85%.

As someone who has spent more than half his life in the United States, this 85% is just amazingly, happily low. It’s also amusingly high considering that just half that many Latin Americans trust their military — I guess about 42% support the existence of non-trustworthy institutions.

Of course, the pro-military folks might freak out — how will Bolivia, for example, ever recapture access to the sea without its looming military threat against Chile? How will Venezuela reassert dominion over the Esequiba jungles of Guyana? How will Colombia and Nicaragua determine who really controls a few lost rocks in the Caribbean? Oh wait, I guess presidents will have to sit down and chat or go to international court, figure out how to control borders while allowing the neighbor access to the necesities of life and offering a face-saving compromise OH SHUT UP YOU BORE. WAR IS MUCH BETTER.

On a more serious note — It’s interesting and distressing that in Paraguay, Ecuador and Honduras between 30% and 40% of the population think a military coup is possible. The countries where fewest people think that’s likely are Chile (interesting, given the size and power of the military) and Costa Rica (not so surprising, since, you know, it has no military.)


5 thoughts on “Another reason I live in Latin America

  1. locojhon

    The Colombians know about Plan Colombia, as the Hondurans know about the military coup which took place there only about a year ago.
    Frankly, I’m surprised the number believing a coup possible in those nations isn’t much higher.

    1. sapitosetty Post author

      Not sure what Colombia has to do with it, but I don’t think anyone expects a coup there. Mockus lost, you know. Honduras, the weird thing is that people see another coup as possible. And Paraguay and Ecuador, well, yes. As you say, duh. I agree with you, it’s surprising that it’s still a minority concern. Venezuela doesn’t get a mention, but I have been subjected to endless speculation about a coup there.

  2. Kepler

    Setty, very interesting post.

    Did you know almost a third of the hundreds of municipios in Venezuela are called after a military caudillo? The milicos have taken the country hostage from its very start and they have done that in more effective ways than anywhere else. That is how the Bolívar cult (started by Bolívar himself) is so pervasive and so crazy.

    The military are among the biggest landowners in Venezuela. There are lots of areas that are in reality “hunting ground” for milico honchos.
    They even have private beaches when no one is allowed to have private beaches in Venezuela.

    Son una plaga.

    Now: what would happen if, say, Colombia and Venezuela and Brazil worked together in military matters as the EU is doing? They could save many billions even without eliminating the milicos. But then not only some castes would lose their power, but several big companies abroad would suffer.
    Israel, Russia and the US thank more than 1% of their exports to weapons. Some others follow not very far (France, Spain and several more). 1% (in the case of Israel it is considerably more) seems like just a tiny bit of their economy, but it is not.

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