Bolivia and 'B Side' Militarism in Latin America
Por Milton Merlo
The Tom Cotton military theory and its implications for Mexico. A recommendation in the National Palace and revelations in the Senate after the Sinaloa crisis.

Weeks ago, Republican Senator Tom Cotton, a prominent figure in the Senate Armed Forces Committee, had a long intervention in which he expressed the idea that senior military officers have adopted a new role in Latin America as guarantors of the constitutional order in the face of the demands of the people. The Arkansas lawmaker cited the recent events in Ecuador and Chile, where high-ranking military officers, as in the case of Mexico, have a penchant for Pentagon education.

According to Cotton, just as in the 70's the military were the natural interrupters of legality in the region, now, in this 21st century, they have become its protectors. The case of Bolivia is proving the opposite. Over the weekend, President Evo Morales had to resign because, according to him, he received a threat from his country's army that led him to leave office to preserve social peace.

Evo Morales Arrives in Mexico 

The Bolivian situation is more similar to what journalist Max Fisher wrote in The New York Times last week. The editorial titled ‘A Very Dangerous Game': In Latin America, Embattled Leaders Lean on Generals, analyzes the risks of the importance that the military are taking in the republics of the region. The text refers to 'militarized democracies'. A warning that today takes on the dimension of absolute reality.

This issue is not at all foreign to Mexico. Since the beginning of the administration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the military establishment has acted under the notion that, faced with the impossibility of resolving the drama of insecurity, the Government has had no choice but to transfer that responsibility to the military and its expertise. By the way: this concept is crystallized daily in the morning security meetings the president holds, where behind each crisis, the military diagnosis is that the civilian authorities were either mistaken or negligent. At best.

The president is aware of this thesis and for this reason he is determined to continue his support for Secretary Alfonso Durazo, a civilian, in the Secretariat of Security despite the fact that crime statistics have not shown any improvement in recent months. This is not about Durazo, but about preventing the military from trying to place a general in that strategic position.

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Since the Culiacan, Sinaloa disaster, where the security forces had to free Chapo Guzman's son to stop a massacre in the city, there have already been two very discreet proposals to replace Durazo in the National Palace and one of them was endorsed by an important diplomatic post. Two days after that event, the president said publicly that there would be no "military coup" in Mexico.

This narrative, which comes with the burden of declaring that service members are not infallible, was present at the closed-door hearing that Durazo attended with a group of senators two weeks ago, where he reiterated that was not resigning.

That meeting produced a peculiar fact: by the last year of Enrique Peña Nieto's six-year term, the arrest warrant for key figures of the Sinaloa cartel had already been issued to Mexico. The order was signed by a judge from the District of Columbia. According to what was said in that restricted meeting, the recommendation not to act came directly from the Mexican Defense Secretariat.

These stories help to understand why AMLO's government reacted immediately to the Bolivian crisis. Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard talked about a coup d'état. Hours earlier, AMLO had said that Evo Morales "was brave" in preserving the people from an escalation of violence. The target audience for both messages is actually in Mexico, not Bolivia: the Mexican Government is determined against any interruption to the legal order in the region and by recognizing Morales, AMLO is actually vindicating himself for his decision to free Ovidio Guzmán and prevent Culiacán from erupting. 

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