Latin American Politics Still a Military Affair

Rosalind Mathieson
Latin American Politics Still a Military Affair

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In the end it was the military that helped settle it.

Having hung on for weeks in the face of protests and opposition claims he’d rigged an election, Bolivia’s socialist President Evo Morales was forced into a corner yesterday.

First the Organization of American States said widespread irregularities meant it was statistically unlikely Morales obtained enough votes to avoid a runoff. Then the armed forces chief called for him to go. And even as he described it as a coup, South America’s longest-serving leader swiftly obliged.

The military has a long history of mixing with politics, including dictatorships, and the sight of troops on the streets can spur painful memories. Although it treads carefully these days, it still holds sway in countries across the region.

In Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro has hung on in the face of immense international pressure, with the army behind him. Witness the recent protests in Ecuador and Chile, where leaders have been quick to appear in public, flanked by senior officers.

In Brazil, a right-wing former army officer is in the presidency, with other former officers in key roles.

Argentina, with painful memories of the 1976-1983 dictatorship, is one outlier.

Where Bolivia goes from here is unclear. There’s confusion over succession as the three officials who were next in line to replace Morales also stepped down. Either way, the military will have a keen interest.

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Thanks to all who responded to our pop quiz Friday and congratulations to reader Owais ur Rehman Maan, who was the first to name Emmanuel Macron as the person who described NATO as being in a state of “brain death.” Tell us how we’re doing or what we’re missing at finally ... Britain is under increasing pressure to return its last African colony, the tropical Chagos Islands. In February, the International Court of Justice ruled the 1965 excision of the islands from Mauritius unlawful because it wasn’t based on the free will of the people. The UN endorsed the ruling and now the clock is ticking towards the Nov. 22 deadline. Yet the U.K. insists it is not ceding control any time soon.


--With assistance from Karen Leigh and Ben Sills.

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