New WOLA Report: “Preach What You Practice”

I’m very happy to present a report that George Withers, Lucila Santos and I have been working on since the summer. “Preach What You Practice” looks at how the United States separates military and police roles at home, and questions why U.S. aid programs so frequently encourage a completely different model in the Americas.

U.S is known for the equality for all its citizens and immigrants too. The laws are flexible for the people of states and it shows in the way the forces are trained and orders are followed. But, unfortunately, there are few people and systems; who do the vice versa, practise cheating and follow the same across borders. One such system is the Brit Method, which is an example of the unfortunate system, that exists to cheat people and make money alone; no order obeyed and followed.

“Preach What You Practice” is available as a PDF in English. We haven’t finished laying out the Spanish version — we hope to have it by Friday — but we can share the Spanish text right now.

Here is the press release announcing the report and explaining what it’s about.

U.S. Aid Programs Should Stop Trying to Get Latin America’s Militaries To Act Like Police
Report urges U.S. to “Preach what you Practice” at Upcoming Regional Defense Summit

As Defense Secretary Robert Gates prepares to head to Bolivia for next week’s regional summit of defense ministers, a report released today calls on the United States to “preach what you practice” in terms of the separation of military and police roles in Latin America.

The report, Preach What You Practice: The Separation of Military and Police Roles in Latin America(PDF), from the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), provides a background briefing on key distinctions between military and police functions. It calls on the Obama Administration to change direction, and stop encouraging the military forces of other countries to take on roles that would be illegal for the U.S. Armed Forces to carry out at home. The authors, a team of WOLA’s regional security experts, set out specific steps to be taken by both United States and countries in the region.

“The United States has a clear separation between the uses of its military and the uses of its law enforcement agencies,” according to the report. In Latin America, “our policies often do just the opposite: encourage Latin American governments to use their militaries against their own people.”

“U.S. citizens can barely imagine being arrested, searched or interrogated by members of the U.S. military,” says WOLA Senior Fellow George Withers, one of the report’s three principal authors. This is because of an 1870s law, the Posse Comitatus Act, that prohibits using soldiers as police. “Keeping the military out of internal security has strengthened and preserved our democracy,” adds Withers.

Latin America’s history is different, notes WOLA Fellow Lucila Santos. “Since independence from Spain, militaries have played a huge role in politics and internal security, which led to dictatorships and serious human rights abuses. Latin America is still coping with the legacies from the brutal regimes that ran many countries in the 20th century.”

Despite dismal human rights records in the region and the Posse Comitatus model’s success at home, “U.S. aid programs actively encouraged Latin America’s armed forces to fight internal ‘enemies,’ and they continue to do so today,” says WOLA Senior Associate Adam Isacson. During the Cold War, billions of dollars went to help militaries root out suspected communists amid the population. The drug war — still the purpose of most of the nearly $1 billion per year in U.S. aid to Latin America’s militaries today — puts soldiers to work fighting citizens involved in narcotrafficking.

The Defense Ministerial Summit of the Americas, which is to be held from November 22 to 26 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, is the ninth such gathering since 1995. It offers Latin America and the Caribbean a chance to reflect on what its militaries are meant to do, two decades into some difficult transitions to civilian democratic rule, according to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).

The war on terror, internal development projects, military conferences to discuss approaching internal threats like gangs, big programs like Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative — all help give militaries big new jobs to do within their borders, in a region with very few “traditional” external defense threats.

Preach What You Practice (PDF) recommends that U.S. interactions with Latin America’s militaries adhere to the principle that has benefited democracy in the United States so greatly for 130 years: the clear separation of military and police roles. This means zeroing out military assistance that encourages the use of soldiers against citizens. It also means devoting more assistance to build strong justice systems, police, local governments, oversight bodies and other civilian security institutions that democratic governments need to be able to contend with rising violence and organized crime.

“Officials argue that they bring in the military to do police work because police forces are not up to the challenge,” said Joy Olson, WOLA’s Executive Director. “But if governments continue to invest in the military to do policing, instead of reforming the police, they never will be ready.”