Resurgence of Military Influence in Area
Spring Meeting of the American Presidents
The military of Latin America—single most important factor in the political life of the countries to the south since the days of the conquistadores—appear to be returning to their habit of assuming direct control of governments in the region. The mounting trend toward military rule follows a period during which the armed forces generally were content to exercise strong influence on civilian governments from the sidelines instead of ousting the civilians and putting their own men in power.
The resurgence of military rule has been accompanied by the re-entry of several Latin nations into the market for advanced weapons and military equipment, particularly jet aircraft. Washington and a number of Latin American capitals have shown concern lest the renewed arms competition slowly escalate into a full-scale arms race. An attempt to halt such a race before it gains headway will be made in mid-April, when President Johnson meets with the heads of 19 Latin American countries in a hemisphere summit conference.
Only a few years ago, political observers were hopeful that military rule was on the wane in South and Central America. Edwin Lieuwen has pointed out that in the period between 1954 and 1961 Latin America was swept by a “wave of anti-militarism.” In 1954, Lieuwen observes, “12 of the 20 Latin American republics were ruled by generals or colonels who had originally achieved the presidency by the use of force, but by mid-1961, only one of these—General Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay—remained.”