The sunset of the South American Defense School

Image: João Nitsche


A planned failure of regional integration at the security level

There is a controversy, a profound dilemma, debating the role of the Armed Forces in Latin America. A concept demonstrated in the 60s and 70s was that “no reactionary force is anti-imperialist”. At the height of regional realism, the Malvinas War fully demonstrated this hypothesis. In Central America, there were two paths. One, more formal, the Army was transformed into the National Guard operating as an internal defense, or the maintenance of order. Another, less cynical, was the National Guard of Somoza, from the dynasty of the three Somozas, swept away with the Nicaraguan Revolution.

Another serious problem is nationalism, or the lack of it, or the notion of what “Latin American nationalism” would be. Our continent has a deep dimension, of original peoples, resistant territories of African-American matrices, relentless struggles of a miscegenated poverty that modernization has not definitively incorporated. On the other hand, our countries have, to a greater or lesser extent – ​​and Brazil to a very high degree – a notion of “nationalism” where the nation is not the mirror of the people, of the peoples of Brazil, but rather a twisted mirror of an elite reactionary, pathetic, colonized and submissive. It is really disgusting, including the high echelon of the armed forces, whose most “sincere” version is the cream of Pinochet's militiamen, who ended up with the country's independent infrastructure and left it impoverished and totally incorporated into the transnational networks of the Pacific axis, capitals Asians included.

At the beginning of this century, when social-democratic and national-developmentalist governments came together, promoted by Chavista Venezuela and the Bolivarian Alliance (ALBA), our countries experienced a superior moment of approximation and conjunction. Again, we were far from forming popular armies, like the liberal-radical republican that faced the gringo invasion, the dictatorship of Santa Anna, had the Reform War and expelled the French invaders, but it was a relevant step, especially for the estates that form the backbone of military institutions. In this sense and with all the “shortcomings”, the South American Defense School (EDSA) was one of the most audacious steps towards regional integration in the area of ​​Defense and Security ever taken.

Its creation came from the need to coordinate defense efforts at the regional level in South America. It is logical, if the General Staff of the Armed Forces foment and encourage regional competitions (such as Brazil X Argentina; Chile X Argentina; Peru X Chile, Boliva X Paraguay; Peru X Ecuador; Venezuela X Colombia, Venezuela X Republic of Guyana), the The mentality of competition within the same continental bloc reaches a level of tensions like that already experienced in the '70s (in the Argentine and Chilean dispute), or in the '90s (with Peruvians and Ecuadorians declaring war). Although the subcontinent is a region considered peaceful, compared to other regions from a geopolitical point of view, it has problems and bottlenecks, such as drug trafficking, modernization policies that do not lead to arms races and the creation of regional security policies that fit the peculiarities Of region. Therefore, if the School ultimately expanded anti-imperialist views, failing to prioritize the security agendas of the Southern Command of the US Empire, it would already mean a considerable advance.

EDSA was created with these issues in mind. In principle, this body would be the space where military personnel from member countries would complete their studies, aiming to answer these questions, with a minimum of interference or indoctrination from external countries to the reality and specificities of South America.[1]. Furthermore, this Military School would serve as a forum for the discussion of joint defense policies among the member countries, within the scope of the UNASUR Defense Council (Consejo de Defensa Suramericano in Spanish, acronym: CDS)[2]. Therefore, by maintaining the Union of Southern Nations and guaranteeing the coexistence of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) and the larger projection, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the School would be an anti -School of the Americas, an attempt to oppose the permanent influence of gringos and powers with an imperialist tradition in the ranks of officers of the armed forces of our continent. It is important to understand that the more integrated, the lower the risk of falling into manipulation by the CIA, DEA, FBI, NSA and other classic US interference in our societies.

As we explained above, even without major conflicts since the Paraguayan War, between 1864 and 1870[3], South America experienced a series of military conflicts throughout the 1932th century. Although most of these conflagrations are of a border nature, such as the Chaco War, from 1935 to 1995 and more recently the Cenepa War, from XNUMX[4], there was also an armed confrontation involving a South American country against a European imperialist power. This conflict, which took place between April and June 1982, was the Malvinas/Falklands War, opposing Argentina to the United Kingdom.[5]. By the logic of UNASUR-ALBA-CELAC, a conflict like that of the Malvinas would not be triggered without the approval of the other member countries and even less would we tolerate more military dictatorships like the Military Junta that promoted a genocide against the population itself.

Added to these experiences, drug trafficking in the 90s proved to be a complex and almost insurmountable problem for countries in the region, culminating in the US intervention in Colombia in the 90s.[6], through its plan to support and equip the local government . We have also linked this problem, the bankruptcy of the Peruvian state, in the same decade, harassed by the self-coup given by President Fujimori[7]. The security dynamics imposed by Plan Colombia is very worrying; the intention of the gringos was to reverse the sending of resources – from the retail of the traffic to the country of the cartels of Medellín, Cali and Norte do Valle; for loans from gringos that alter the logic of Colombian national sovereignty. Therefore, a coordinated work between Latin American agencies without going through the command and the “collaboration” of the imperialist agencies would be a triumph in the sense of greater autonomy and less dependence.

From this scenario, aggravated by the espionage scandal carried out by the NSA (National Security Agency), in 2013, Brazilian diplomacy worked so that the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) incorporated into its set of objectives, to take care of the training of military personnel of the high officials of the member countries[8]. As a result, EDSA was created, within the organizational umbrella of the UNASUR Defense Council, in 2015[9]. As can be seen, the School was short-lived and arrived late, already at the turn of the correlation of forces, with social democracy losing ground in Brazil and Argentina and with the election of Ecuador approaching the betrayal that ensued.

In terms of diplomatic articulation, Itamaraty operated well. In order to avoid criticism of the search for hegemony within UNASUR, which would alienate most of the body's members, and as a proof of good faith, Brazil supported the choice of the city of Quito, in Ecuador, to be the headquarters of both the Defense Council and the South American Defense School[10]. For Brazil, the EDSA would aim, in addition to the aforementioned objectives, to allow a “clean” instruction of its high-ranking officers (from majors to generals).

Clear of organizational, political and “ideological” influences that come largely from the studies carried out by these officers in places like the Superior War College, a place markedly accustomed to ideas of geostrategic and ideological submission to the US[11]. As a result of the anti-integration behavior of the Brazilian Armed Forces, which saw (and see) UNASUR and its defense bodies (CDS and EDSA) with disdain and hostility, combined with an exaggerated phobia of policies considered “Bolivarian”, they wove heavy and unfounded criticism of EDSA and UNASUR as a whole[12]. While the conspiracy of the top military leadership advanced at a goose-step pace towards the threats of a coup by Twitter and both the “new right” and the “extreme right” grew, Brazilian diplomacy ran in parallel towards the EDSA. The government that was about to be deposed lacked intelligence.

After the impeachment coup of Dilma Rousseff (politically orchestrated, with fragile legal basis) in April 2016, the country began a process of removal and dehydration of UNASUR organizations, even affecting EDSA[13]. In April 2019, Brazil, together with Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador withdrew definitively from the South American organization, marking the failure of the integration process and transforming UNASUR into a tiny bloc, today containing Venezuela, Suriname and Guyana, with Peru having suspended its participation and Bolivia having started the exit negotiations in November of the same year[14].

The abandonment of EDSA by Brazil and other former UNASUR members relegated the South American Military School to gigantic institutional ostracism. Today, there is only one course taught by the Superior School of War, dated 2017[15]. No curricular update information or if it is still taught[16]. Still, the official EDSA website does not work, which contrasts with the abandonment of this entity by former and current members.[17].

With the establishment of partnerships between Colombia and Brazil with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2018 and 2019[18,19] respectively, the continent is moving further away from regional integration mechanisms, whether politically or in defense and security. The choice of the South American political and military elites for an international military organization with similar mechanisms on the continent itself, with the bonus of not having the neocolonial imposition of a foreign leadership, demonstrates that independence at the international level is not a priority.

Again the “ideological” component – ​​that of subservience and not that of independence and autonomy -, added to the political disturbances caused by groups and parties aligned with the political right and extreme right in Brazil (from 2015) and Bolivia (with the coup of 2019), aligned with convenient governments with the dismantling of integration policies, as in Argentina (Macri Government) and Colombia (successively since Plan Colombia, but with emphasis after the government of the paramilitary and drug trafficker Álvaro Uribe Vélez and his political heirs) undermined once again the political efforts for integration and the construction of a security environment more prone to Latin American integration, anti-imperialism and self-determination of our countries.

It is definitely time for all the lefts on this continent to understand once and for all that there is no “neutrality” in the matter of the armed forces and it is not enough to leave them intact as we did in Brazil for 30 years of liberal democracy. The military tradition in our countries is, for the most part, colonialist, post-colonial and submissive. The mongrel complex, commanding regiments and military organizations, is always harmful and as such must be rejected. As we know in our own territory, the idea that the forces of Caxias, Eduardo Gomes and Tamandaré are going to defend popular sovereignty in Palmares and Pindorama is absurd. As José Gervasio Artigas, general of free men and women, teaches us, “we can only count on ourselves”.

* Pedro Guedes he is an internationalist and studying law.

*Bruno Lima Rocha is a libertarian socialist militant and editor of the channels of the Strategy & Analysis, political analysisítick to the left more left.



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