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Category: Latin America and the Caribbean

Dec. 12, 2016

Chapter 15 | Latin America

U.S. national security interests in Latin America are undermined by two key threats: transnational criminal organizations, which exploit weak levels of governance across the majority of countries in the region, and extra-regional actors, which fill the vacuum of U.S. distraction and inattention to its neighborhood. The United States must acknowledge the deeply rooted causes of poor governance and engage with greater attention and presence, while recognizing its limitations for helping to resolve those weaknesses in the short term. Limited resources will constrain U.S. efforts, so the United States must prioritize support to select strategic partners.

Aug. 17, 2016

Frontier Security: The Case of Brazil

Over the past three decades Brazil has greatly improved its ability to monitor and control its long border. Achieving better management of the complex frontier security problem required a great deal of patience, trial and error, organizational adaptation, and good leadership. The Brazilian experience yields a number of important lessons for Brazil and for its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. Improving performance required subordination of military priorities to civilian authorities; the repositioning of forces; better military-police cooperation; interagency and international cooperation; investment in technologies to give Brazil an advantage in the contest for best situational awareness; a long-term commitment; and guiding strategy documents supported by both civil and military authorities. Of overarching significance is the way the Brazilian military was able to reestablish the confidence of civilian leaders in the aftermath of decades of military rule. The result was a Brazilian military that is more professional, more respected, and better resourced than before. For the United States, the evolution of Brazilian frontier security is not only a developing good news story for hemispheric relations, but also a learning opportunity, since similar security problems have not always been so well managed in the United States.

July 1, 2016

Reflections on U.S.-Cuba Military-to-Military Contacts

The strategic import of U.S.-Cuba relations was underscored by President Barack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba from March 20–22, 2016, and his comment that he had come to Cuba “to bury the last remnant of the Cold War in the Americas.” Geography also reinforces the strategic importance of both countries to one another. Cuba sits astride the intersection of the three large bodies of water dominating the approaches to the southern United States. The large island nation is in a position to block, complicate, or facilitate U.S. border control efforts in many ways. Partnering with Cuba also might allow the United States to benefit from Cuba’s notable record of using soft power effectively in the Western Hemisphere and beyond.

Jan. 1, 2014

The Defense Acquisition Trilemma: The Case of Brazil

Brazil is a puzzling new player in the global system. Emerging as a complex international actor, it has come to be seen as a significant economic competitor and dynamic force in world politics. But transformational changes in the economic and political realms have not been accompanied by advances in military power. While Brazil has entered the world stage as an agile soft power exercising influence in setting global agendas and earning a seat at the economic table of policymakers, its military capacity lags. The national security strategy announced under President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2008 intended to redress this power gap. President Dilma Rousseff ’s 2011 White Paper—so detailed that it is called a “White Book”—provides the conceptual roadmap to achieve a new military balance. But military modernization is still a work in progress.

Aug. 1, 2012

Trust, Engagement, and Technology Transfer: Underpinnings for U.S.-Brazil Defense Cooperation

On the eve of the January 1, 2011, inauguration of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, the State Department noted that the United States “is committed to deepening our relationship on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues with Brazil’s government and people.” President Rousseff herself declared shortly thereafter, “We will preserve and deepen the relationship with the United States.” During President Barack Obama’s March 2011 visit to Brazil, both leaders cited “the progress achieved on defense issues in 2010” and stated their commitment to “follow up on the established dialogue in this area, primarily on new opportunities for cooperation.” While these rhetorical commitments are important, will they lead to greater cooperation on defense issues and improve U.S.-Brazil ties?

March 1, 2011

Brazil and the United States: The Need for Strategic Engagement

Washington’s identification of Brazil with Latin America and the Third World hampers its appreciation of Brazil’s power and importance to the United States. It is true that Brazil is geographically part of Latin America, and it is also true that Brazil, a founder of the Group of 77, was, with India, among the original leaders of the “Third World.”