latin america ...
Conflicting Powers' Politics"
Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira, Economics, Getulio
about Terrorism in Colombia"
Francisco Gutiérrez Sanín, Researcher, universidad de Colombia
Overview of the Impact of September 11 on Latin America"
Monica Hirst, Fundación Centro de Estudos Brasileiros,
Security After September 11"
Farid Kahhat, Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas,
Ideas in New Discourses: 'The War Against Terrorism' and Collective
Memory in uruguay and Argentina"
Aldo Marchesi, Centro de Estudios Interdisciplinarios Latinoamericanos,
and Freedom: An Outside View"
Luis Rubio, Political Economy, Center for Research for Development,
After Sept. 11
essays on additional topics and views from other regions
home page for SSRC Program on Latin America and the Caribbean
An Overview of the Impact of September 11 on Latin America
Monica Hirst, Executive Director, Fundación Centro de Estudos Brasileiros
Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, Latin American countries immediately voiced their solidarity with the united States, expressing their shared grief and announcing broad-based efforts to combat terrorism. The immediate call for a conference of the Organization of American States (OAS) and the swift activation of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (IATRA), however, presented a less than perfect picture of regional cohesion. While both initiatives had their desired symbolic effects, particularly as the u.S. was mustering political support to legitimize the announced military action in Afghanistan, the attacks, in fact, came at a time when the political and economic challenges facing the region are producing fragmentation rather than coordination and/or integration.
This geopolitical reality suggests that Latin American nations are likely to position themselves on an individual basis rather than as a cohesive regional bloc within the post-September 11th world. This tendency does not ignore the fact that countries in the region may share common concerns and suffer consequences that could very well exacerbate the downward trends already visible in the region before September 11. Thus, in order to understand the effects of September 11th on the region, it is necessary, first, to examine its place within the post-Cold War global order.
Where and How the Region Stands
Latin America has gone through major transformations over the last 10 years, ranging from domestic politics and economics to regional and hemispheric affairs. After a long period of authoritarian rule as well as institutional and recurrent economic instability, democratic governments began sprouting up in the region along with comprehensive neo-liberal economic reforms. until the 1997 crisis of the Mexican peso, commonly known as the Tequila Crisis, economic growth was fueled by the re-negotiation of foreign debt, growth in direct foreign investment, and the expansion of extra and intra- regional trade. While regional trade agreements gave new life to regionalism in the Americas, u.S. hegemony prevailed, led by Washington's hemispheric agenda.
for the text of the treaty.
In the North, the North American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA) demonstrated the effectiveness of geo-economics and highlighted the special status Mexico had achieved in post-Cold War relations between the u.S. and Latin America. In the South, Mercosur was fast becoming the most successful South-South regional integration initiative. The ambiguous launching of a Free Trade Area of the Americas
(FTAA) in 1995, however, enjoyed a mixed reception, raising feelings of seduction, rivalry and defensiveness within the Latin American community.
Regarding the security agenda, peace processes unfolded quite smoothly in the Southern Cone during this period. Countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Chile, which were previously reluctant to such processes, began to yield to international non-proliferation pressure. New civilian-military relations under democratic regimes eliminated most of the conflicts that had undermined intra-regional relations for over 150 years. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, the region presented limited traditional security threats in comparison to other explosive regions of the Third World. Notwithstanding, non-military threats had reached unknown proportions in the Andean region. In Colombia, a complex scenario dominated by drug trafficking, guerrilla warfare and paramilitary activity produced an endless escalation of violence. The approval, and gradual enforcement, of Plan Colombia by the u.S. Congress opened the door to u.S. military presence, which was more than welcomed by local armed forces. At the same time, however, the initiative introduced new degrees of instability that deepened the Colombian crisis, the effects of which increasingly began to spill over into neighboring countries.
One of the most pressing and difficult tasks facing Latin American policy makers is improving intra-regional political coordination. Throughout the 1990s, the region demonstrated its limited capacity to mobilize as a unified actor. States hardly moved beyond shallow presidential diplomacy in order to articulate mutual concerns. The most threatening security problem in the region-the drug trade-was never confronted through an effective regional policy. In global politics, the region had proven incapable of presenting a unified front regarding reform of uN Security Council. The South American presidential Summit called by the Brazilian government in 2000, moreover, raised more uncertainties than support for Brazil's regional leadership. As a result of these factors the united States has been able to maintain uncontested political and economic pre-eminence at a relatively low cost, despite the fact that it has shown reluctance, inconsistency and neglect toward the region.
In summary, post-Cold War Latin America presented a three-fold scenario: a geo-economic sub-region in the North dominated by the u.S., which in essence involved only Mexico though it also spilled over into Central America and the Caribbean; an Andean sub-region subjected to burdens imposed by weakened governments and powerful drug-trafficking and guerrilla groups; and a peaceful area in the Southern Cone with increased sub-regional integration and a mutual sub-regional trust, particularly in the case of Argentina and Brazil.
Facing the New Reality
As mentioned earlier, Latin America immediately reactivated the Inter-American
system1 after the terrorist attack upon the u.S. despite precarious intra-regional coordination. Mexico had recently called for the dismantling of the IATRA and at the same time announced its own defection from the Treaty; Argentina insinuated military support in Afghanistan, albeit with some hesitation; and Brazil emphasized the need to avoid irrational reactions. Nevertheless, Washington acknowledged the Brazilian call for an OAS conference and the activation of IATRA as an "enough-for-now" response from Latin America. Support from European nations, NATO and even
SEATO, as well as major world powers such as Russia and China, were far more important in order to legitimize the u.S.-led military intervention in Afghanistan.
Though Latin American involvement in military action in Central Asia has been marginal, the changing tides since September 11th have had an inevitable impact upon the region. New and renewed apprehensions have emerged regarding political, security and economic repercussions. In many parts of the region, there has been a disjuncture between the stance adopted by governments and public opinion. Military involvement has been rejected across the board, while anti-Americanism (not to be confused with anti-Western sentiments) has spread in many communities.
The first and most visible impact is seen in security relations between the u.S. and Latin America. The expansion of FBI, DEA and CIA operations in direct connection with sweeping "homeland security measures" carried out in the u.S. is already affecting the character of police and intelligence activities in Latin America. In Mexico's case, these circumstances will hasten the border-blurring process already underway since the enactment of
NAFTA. Fears of escalating xenophobia, anti-immigration sentiment, as well as the consequences associated with each, have softened earlier discourses of nationalistic resistance within Mexico, leading to more effective collaboration on both sides of the border. A major expansion of u.S. intelligence presence throughout the region is expected, as the u.S. demonstrates caution regarding military cooperation initiatives. Furthermore, the new set of financial security measures aimed at curtailing money laundering operations that were launched along with the u.S. Foreign Assets Terrorist Tracking Program will introduce new constraints for the Latin American banking system, particularly in the Caribbean sub-region.
The new security priorities of the u.S. will affect hemispheric trade relations as well. Since the inauguration of the Bush Administration, expectations have grown regarding the negotiation of the
FTAA. u.S. foreign policy in light of the terrorist attacks has not only downgraded the importance of the Trade Promotion Authority
(TPA) requested by the President from Congress last June, but has also hardened the u.S. stance toward hemispheric trade negotiations. It is important to keep in mind, however, that less flexible positions in trade arrangement negotiations were a foreseeable consequence of the visible recessional tendencies in the u.S. economy long before the September attacks.
Now, recession coupled with war have revitalized nationalism in the u.S. and paved the way for economic protectionism, affecting market access concessions and the eventual reduction of unilateral trade barriers sought by Latin American countries. The political rhetoric behind the latest measures undertaken to protect u.S. domestic steel production, affecting Argentine and Brazilian exports, illustrates such tendencies. Long before September 11th President Bush had already emphasized the link between trade and international security. In the aftermath of the attacks, it is reasonable to expect that this connection will become a cornerstone of u.S. foreign policy in Latin America.
Following the events of September 11th, there are likely to be a variety of reactions and effects in Latin America, marked by the existing contrasts between the sub-regions. The Andean countries share growing fears of an escalation of violence and political turmoil in Colombia as a consequence of the military and paramilitary activities being carried out in Central Asia. The Colombian military, fears that the u.S.-led operation in Central Asia may result in the funding cuts for Plan Colombia. At the same time, the upcoming presidential election will create a new wave of politicization that will involve both partisan politics as well as powerful
narco-guerrilla forces in the country. The involvement of narco-business in political campaigns, the escalation of violence with electoral ends, and the search for special political deals in Washington are all likely outcomes.
Within the Southern Cone it will be difficult to reverse the lack of cohesion that has characterized the sub-region's foreign policy since the end of the Cold War. Southern Cone nations are more likely to find common ground on regional security issues than on the global security agenda. A scenario similar to the one observed during the Gulf War, when Argentina and Brazil chose different courses of action as to the level of commitment to u.S. led military operations, is likely to emerge.
Click here for the web
site of FTAA.
Currently, however, Brazil is taking a more active role in multilateral arenas-most notably within the united Nations-insisting that in order to confront emerging global threats there needs to be a conceptual revision of world politics based on the elaboration of what could be called an "ethical diplomacy." Yet the chance that Brazil could expand its role as a global player has now significantly
diminished.2 Following September 11th, the Brazilian government has expanded domestic control over money laundering operations and has become less resistant to the presence u.S. intelligence in the country. Ironically, one consequence of the recent expansion of military activities in world politics has been stimulation of the Brazilian arms industry.
Nonetheless, different foreign policy objectives have not kept Argentina and Brazil from expanding cooperative measures to improve intelligence and police controls at the Triple Border area, particularly between the cities of Puerto Iguazu (Argentina), Cuidad del Este (Paraguay) and Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil). Since the last terrorists attack in Buenos Aires in 1994, this has been considered a hot bed of suspected terrorists. Since September 11th, the Triple Border has become the most scrutinized area in the Southern Cone. The FBI has requested information regarding the presence of Hezbollah and Hamas members in the area, and local police forces from all three countries have intensified their presence in the area.
The Risks at Stake
From a political standpoint, the aftermath of the attacks on the united States may generate areas of potential tension in the region. First, these events could open a Pandora's box in the arena of civilian-military relations around very sensitive issues such as intelligence and police activities. In new democracies, efficient mechanisms to avoid abuses and clarify blurry borders between legitimate and illegitimate repression will be crucial.
Secondly, the need for regional collaboration between police, intelligence and eventually military actors implies a revision of the non-intervention principles still vehemently defended by such countries as Peru, Venezuela and Brazil. This has been a subject of debate since non-military threats have become a relevant part of the regional security agenda. The entire debate on cooperative security that took place in the early 90´s reflected the pressures to revise established Latin American foreign policy concepts on sovereignty. under current pressures this revision will most likely be amplified.
Third and finally, it is important to consider the risks of amplified
unilateralism, which may deepen political fragmentation within the region. Solitary decisions regarding military involvement, bilateral negotiations with Washington or regional representation in multilateral arenas will all inevitably have disruptive effects on the Latin America community. Recent difficulties encountered by the Rio Group in gathering support from other regions for a uN proposal to fight terrorism reveal the obstacles the area faces in achieving a voice in the international
arena.3 The lack of intra-regional unity will only aggravate the peripheral position the area now holds in world affairs. On the other hand, in the case of South America, and particularly the Southern Cone, the lack of security threats could be an asset, strengthening the notion that poor regions of the world are not by definition a source of global security threats.
Monica Hirst is Executive Director of the Fundación Centro de Estudos Brasileiros
(FuNCEB) in Buenos Aires and a professor in the M.A. Program in International Relations at Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales
1 A general analysis of the reach and limits of the recent reactivation of the
Inter-american system was written by Juan Toklatian. See
november/2001 Spanish edition of Foreign Affairs.(vol.I, #4).
2 An example of this kind of consequence is mentioned by Robert Luttwak when he aknowledges that in the new world setting it will become more difficult for Brazil - together with India, China and even South Africa-to become a member of the G-7 as had been cogitated before. See Veja magazine november 14, 2001.
3 The Rio Group is an inter-governmental political gathering formed in 1985 which comprises all South America, Mexico and representation for Central America and