The modern political regime in Latin America today is characterized by special and paradoxical issues. Political life in Latin America has not been able to reflect the constitutional clauses, and any other rules accepted within Western democracies. According to Loveman (1999: p1-2), political regimes in Latin America are normally ephemeral and the use of dictatorship often interrupt institutional continuity. Rebellion, revolutions and coup d’etat are used as common ways of rising to power, they are in fact used as the usual means of election. The political stage is also occupied by a specific group of people, such as guerrillas, charismatic leaders, caudillos, revolutionaries, among others.
Most of the Latin American phenomena goes back to the early period of the nineteenth century, making it necessary to adopt a historic perspective. Rather than being a recent creation, Latin American political regime unlike political regimes in other areas of Europe, has a long history of the whole political tradition that is used to characterize the behavior of both the normal citizens, and the political elites. The historical influence of values, attitudes, customs, professional standards, institutional norms and the political culture have contributed to shaping the present military relations, with the modern politics of Latin America (Loveman, 1999: p1-2).
In this approach, the history of the military influence to the politics of the day is not a thing of the past, but is still a complex set of enduring, beliefs, collective expectations, institutional behavior patterns that still function as contingencies affecting the present, and the future. Such military history may not fully affect the social, cultural and political regimes, but rather form part of the important path dependent on the political and social change in each community and nation. They function more or less con-sensually, more or less-overly, more or less conflictingly, or more or less consciously. The history of military influence also function with the aim of legitimizing present actions, whose main purpose is to approve and reaffirm historical values, commitments, shared dreams, they in the alternative operate as obstacles, political and cultural barriers to the change and revolution of the society. However, this aspects are advocated by the revolutionaries and social reforms.
In Latin America, both the nineteenth century and colonial patterns of civil military relations have continued into the twentieth century, though some of the regions have changed one element or another. However, certain elements of military institutions, and military relations in Latin America, and certain modes of conflict over these institutions and patterns are recognized as common legacies that were present, even before twentieth century developments. Studies have emphasized how this patterns have been similar across the region, and how they have kept differing up to the period when world war 1 took place.
The impact of world war 1 had great influence on the colonial regime. The armed forces influenced to a great extent the creation of the new constitutional regimes in the nineteenth century. The armed forces also influenced the creation and making of the penal codes, and the national security laws. The European military missions also had a great impact on the creation of the new regime in Latin America, and the creation of the new laws. Civil military relations in Latin America involve wide interactions between government policy makers, military institutions, ordinary citizens and other organized interest groups. The military groups are coordinated by both international and domestic variables, by long term and short term circumstances, and by specific features of a nation that contains both the political and social regimes. A close look at the Latin American society, the military relations and the political scenes, clearly show that the military play a big role in influencing the politics of the day.
The influence of the military in Latin American politics began way back from the Colombian voyage of discovery that took place in the seventeenth century. During this period in time, Iberian peninsula faced dynasty war and warfare, between fictions of moors and Christianity, territorial, family feuds, religious, ethnic, economic and cultural conflicts. This off-gain, and on-gain campaigns were meant to liberate Iberia from the conquerers in North Africa, temporary truces, engendered alliances, and illusionary pacifications. For close to seven centuries, constant battle raged on with the aim of recuperating Iberia for Christianity, and to do way with the miscegenation of the seven centuries, political pragmatism and cultural borrowing. This period lead to the creation of foundational theories of military lore and nationalism.
Guerra (2002: p248), states that this conquest forms the basis for the formation of Spain’s history on the military operations, and influences the political activities in most parts of the world. The victory of Granada in the year 1469, joined military religious crusades with military conquest into a proto-Spanish nationalism. No other nation in Europe trace its nation-sate to such a religious-military campaign, or can date its conquest so precisely in the infusion of military and religious influence.
Studies have shown that, the conquest was worn through the effort of warrior priest traditions, practices and institutions of the natives, the military conquest, religious and cultural imposition. Thus when the battle was worn, the founders and early governors of the newly established territories often based their titles to a delantado, an honor that was given to heads of that regime, the military leaders of the reconquista in the Iberian peninsula. Those who mirrored the mixture of religious fighters were also accorded leadership in the new regime. These were the people who were zealous for religious interests, and also in need of instant riches. This figured the heroic and exploits of the eleventh century. This new regime of leaders is clear show of how military leaders got easily into power with their influence that was bound to be felt both in the social, economic and political formation of the new Spanish American regime.
The leaders in effect undertook to collect loyalties that would later be used for battle and recruitment of new armies, who were meant to conquer other nations. Most people joined the army with the aim of getting quick riches. Up to the end of eighteenth century, the Spanish traditional warrior-priest preceded conquering the Western Hemisphere, with the melding of governance, conquest, cultural intolerance and religion that persisted in the colonial life. These conquests were championed by the military leaders most of who had already taken leadership positions in the new military regime.
Military missions, public order, war fare and external security by the military forces played a big role in the sixteenth century. During this period, the rulers in Spain were always at war, or were either preparing to go to war, of were recovering from war. Guerra, 2002: p250-254), stated that Iberian mercenaries and armies fought in North Africa, Europe and Asia, and also fought against Indians who were located in South Western parts of United States, all the way to South America. Spanish mercenary and their navies fought in the Pacific, Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Caribbean.
In addition to the warfare role played by the military personnel, the soldiers and officers in the military forces were responsible for maintainance of public order and enforcement of the law. A proper distinction between the functions of the military personnel and those of the police was not available. At the beginning of nineteenth century, internal security missions who were in the armed forces had expended in number, both in the acquired colonies and in Spain.
After the end of succession in Spanish, in 1714, the king adjusted the internal administration, and replaced some of the royal leaders with captaincy-generals. This was the symbol of transition from the regime of kingdom, to local custom and laws to provinces ruled by a centralized authority, this in turn became an important office for administration.
The infusion of judicial, administrative and military authority made military officers to emerge as superior authorities in the entire system of administration, and in the ordinary system of justice. The administrative system responded to the belief of the king in order to efficiently enforce the laws, to legislate, and to implement the decisions of the judiciary. The establishment of a permanent army was necessary to defend both the kingdom and to fight the external enemies. This shows the position acquired by the military in the territorial organization in Spanish, in eighteenth century.
In the twentieth century, Spanish American leaders of the rebels such as Augustu Cesar and Villa Pancho made a legal categorization that subjected the bandits to the jurisdiction of the military tribunals, and to immediate executions. According to Loveman (1999: p254), special courts were also put in place to deal with bandits, and other political opponents, the leaders in these courts and justice system being mostly the military leaders. Civilization and political opponents were therefore subjected to military law and tribunals. These patterns used to deal with political and security opposition, to a large extent were extended to Latin America and have since been retained even after independence. Thus the military law, and tribunals, play a big role in the Latin American politics.
Military codes and military laws were enacted and implemented in the 1976 period, these have survived the national building, independence struggles and the writing of the constitution in the twentieth and nineteenth centuries. These provided guiding principles for the behavior of the police officers, until the end of the twentieth century. The set assumptions required that a police officers should obey the laws were adopted, and have played a big role in shaping the modern military operations in Latin America and Spain.
The same operations have been guided by the military codes and military laws, that were enacted and enforced in the early nineteenth century. These codes would guide the armed forces to operate against lefties and guerrillas political movements that took place in the region. Theses operations however resulted to the violations of human rights in Latin America. All the same, this is a good illustration of how the military operations in Latin America have influenced and shaped the political activities over a long period of time.
The historical events from the early seventeenth, and nineteenth century, since the beginning of the world war 1 have created circumstances that have enabled the military to gain powerful positions in the administrative system. The infusion of judicial, administrative and military authority made military officers to emerge as superior authorities in the entire system of administration, and in the ordinary system of justice. In effect, military laws and orders were enacted, and all the people in Latin America were subjected to these military laws and orders. The laws guiding the armies required them to fight against bandits and any political opponents. This has survived and shaped the political system of both Spain and Latin America.
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Guerra, F. (2002). The Spanish-American Tradition of Representation and its European Roots. Published by Scholarly Resources. Original from University of Texas p1-2
Loveman, B. (1999). Historical Foundations of Civil-Military Relations in Spanish America. Published by Rowman & Littlefield.p248-260.