Tag Archives: Latin America

Politicizing the Military is Dangerous

New Orleans       The role of the military in governments of any stripe can be a powerful thing, though rarely is this good news.

In Asia, the military junta’s role in Myanmar has led to genocide and the disgrace of a Nobel prize symbol of democracy.   In Thailand, the military determines the winners and losers with impunity.  Ditto Pakistan.  Let’s leave Africa out of it, but certainly the military has triggered coup after coup there.  Latin America is closer at hand.  The thrust and parry in Venezuela earlier in the year was played on the stage of whether the military supported the existing government or those calling for coup.  Brazil, Chile, and Argentina during the Cold War furor were the steady sites of coups and the threat of coups.  In Turkey and the Middle East, the military has their hands on the scale in determining the sustainability of governments.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse to death, but an independent military that is under the control of a civilian government has been a prescription for functioning democratic governance for centuries.  Having watched President Trump’s efforts to politicize the judiciary and strip them of any neutrality, it’s worth worrying that the military could be his next project.  With judges now, every decision seems conditionalized by whether a Republican or a Democratic president appointed them for life.  We will all rue the day if we have to see generals, admirals and others through a partisan lens.

Is this crazy to worry about?  I think not.

First, we had Trump in the heyday of his early presidency talk constantly about “his generals.”  Then they were not just running the military, but also bouncing around between top posts running the National Security Council, the Defense Department, and serving as Chief of Staff at the White House, which is equivalent to running the government.  Of course, he fell out with all the ones who weren’t forced to resign because of ethical problems, which is part of what now drives his new found zeal and brings me to my worry beads.

Then we have his attack on the colonel on special assignment to the National Security Council as a Ukrainian expert and speaker, calling him a “never Trumper” and a partisan.  He made the mistake of thinking he was “doing his duty” as opposed to being a sycophant wearing a uniform.  I don’t even want to go into his MAGA hats and attempt to rally the soldiers over the last year politically, but it happened, so let’s keep it in mind.

Now we have Trump overruling the top Navy admiral and the Navy secretary for believing that someone accused of killing a civilian in Afghanistan, innocent or guilty in a trial, might not be a keeper for the better image of the SEALs or the Navy itself.  Heck, it might even be sending the wrong message.  Trump claims he’s trying to protect warriors, but does that mean killers or does it mean soldiers?

Trump trying to politicize the armed forces is not a good look.  Part of me thinks the culture of the military is deeply ingrained enough to resist being partisan and that they understand the difference, so they’ll stay neutral.  But, didn’t we hear that would be the case with judges too, but now look at the Supreme Court and how deeply Trump appointees are disrupting the judicial system.  It’s worth some worry.

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San Pedro Sula Museum, Media, and More

San Pedro Sula    One of the adventures of organizing and traveling in other countries, especially in other languages, is that no matter how much you plan and discuss the agenda – always be ready for surprises.   Our long day in San Pedro Sula proved all of that in spades.

We began the day visiting a school where ACORN parents in the community had won a number of firsts not just in the barrio, but in the entire city.  We had managed to get internet in the school and all of the children small, green and white portable computers, which was quite amazing on many counts. Reporters and photographers from La Prensa were there to join our celebration with the students and teachers.  During the program it became clear that their next goal was to somehow spread the word, using ACORN’s help, that the ACORN parents and group wanted a bilingual volunteer from Canada, the USA or the United Kingdom, so that the children could learn English.  I thought to myself that it might be easier to fight for potable water in the school we visited in Cholomo than to throw out a net and catch a volunteer teacher, but what do I know.

Our next meeting was fascinating.  We met with the woman who had founded and continued to direct the Museum of Anthropology in the city for the last twenty-five years.  There was a moving exhibit on migrant journeys and struggles side by side with relics from Mayan temples more than a thousand years old.  The problem ACORN had embraced in partnering with the museum was how to get more children and their parents to visit, but before we could really get our arms around that problem, we found ourselves being interviewed by a journalist from Tiempo about the background and plans for ACORN’s expansion in Honduras and Latin America in general.  Once the tape recorder was shut off, she gave us excellent advice on how the Honduran pages of the ACORN International website could be useful in giving wider voice to many being stifled throughout the country.

Later, after a celebration of ACORN’s work and our great allies in government, politics and elsewhere in the city, we grabbed a cup of coffee before heading off to a radio interview.  When we arrived, we found that the radio session was actually a television interview with a nationally respected journalist for 30-minutes.  We were fishes out of water on Maya TV on a show called in English, “the end of the day.”

We breathed a sigh of relief at having survived the multi-lingual experience without damaging ACORN’s work and found there was one more short meeting to go, a meet-and-greet with an old university friend of our organizer, Suyapa Amador.  Arriving we discovered he owned and managed radio and television stations that we learned were not only in Honduras but also in Nicaragua and Peru. Luckily, no cameras were running and no tape recorders had been clicked “on,” so having dinner with the media mogul and former presidential candidate at a Denny’s across from his studio seemed almost a relief after our madcap day.

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