Potential Threat: The New OAS Concept of Hemispheric Security.

Essay by lupitafeUniversity, Master'sA, March 2006

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The declaration on security in the Americas, adopted by the OAS (Organization of American States) in October 2003, created a new concept of hemispheric security that broadens the traditional definition of national defense to incorporate new threats, including political, economic, social, health, and environmental concerns, to such an extent that almost any problem can now be considered a security threat. The implementation of this new concept may lead to greater "securitization" of the region's problems, defined as the treatment of these problems as if they were security threats. Securitization carries with it the risk of military responses to problems that are not military in nature and in circumstances where military action is ill-suited or could cause more harm than good, a tendency that is already well under way in Latin America.

Risk exists due to 4 main factors:

1. Historic tendency of the region's armed forces to intervene politically under authoritarian regimes or during periods of armed conflict or social instability

2. The US "War on Drugs" which encourages a greater role for the region's militaries in domestic law enforcement.

3. The inability of most of the region's police forces to respond effectively to growing crime and violence.

4. The US "War on Terror" particularly in expansive and nebulous definition of terrorism, which in turn encourages the armed forces to combat terrorism in whatever form it is expressed.

The convergence of the new OAS and US visions of security in Latin America will likely obstruct the long and difficult path towards consolidating democracy and strengthening civilian institutions in the region.


Latin America has a history of militarization n response to internal conflict, instability and crime. Although all except one country have democratically elected leaders, many countries in...