Asambleas Ciudadanos


the Citizens' Assembly in the Southern Cone



Military, Civilians and Latin American Integration

Translations : English . français . Español

I was invited to a seminar on the Military, democracy and Latin American integration, in which men in uniforms, both retired and active, from different countries of the Southern Cone would take part... Coming from Chile, I figured that the program announced was no more than a euphemism or a declaration of intent.

But I would be gladly surprised... Luckily, reality deservedly slammed the door on my prejudices. The Military turned out to be democratic, respectful towards civil power and human rights, distrustful of the United States, and integrationist. Yes, that’s right! I was so glad to hear such things as that the Messianism derived from the National Security Doctrine led the Military to mount coup d’etats and to commit atrocious crimes, that they should have never distanced themselves from citizenship, that they should not depend materially and ideologically on the United States, and that the current and future Latin American challenges must be faced together. Thus, the very Military proved to be loud democrats and integrationists !

With respect to the integration issue, what the men in uniforms said can certainly be based upon a strategic imperative: someone who is strong can easily defeat someone weak and loot their resources at pleasure. In fact, “divide and conquer” has been the US policy in this continent ever since their great efforts to make Bolivar’s project of a “Grand Country” fail until today. And how successful have they been at it! However, the participants in this seminar, like all good military men, know that a powerful enemy should not be given any advantage.

The voices I heard, though, certainly did not stop at that! Integration was also, and fortunately, an “ideological” objective (or a “romantic” one, some others would disdainfully claim). Therefore, the border problems that still exist between Latin American nations should be promptly solved, they pointed out. Needless to say, this should be done peacefully. There was no doubt that this was an advisable and urgent objective.

As I took in all I heard about the matter, I could not but compare these military men —some guys whose “job” will kill them, and this will certainly not be due to an industrial accident— to the chauvinist opinions of very many Chilean civilians that I have met.

I would like to specifically mention the sea issue for Bolivia : a sea that was taken away from them through a war, something like an armed robbery, and when the 1822, 1823 and 1833 Chilean constitutions accepted that Chile’s northern-most border was the Atacama desert. In other words, the situation is unlawful... unless we accept that muggers are fair owners of what they steal and that constitutions are documents which should not be paid attention to.

Conversely, I have always been intrigued by “nationalist” festivals that hit the ceiling about a piece of land but that never say a thing about other more serious losses of sovereignty if these are advantageous to a country or their future generations : for instance, the external debt acquired by Pinochet ; the sale of State businesses at vile prices ; or the giving away of water rights, maritime resources and minerals to private hands. Thus, what is sovereignty to these peculiar nationalists? Besides, trying to indefinitely extend a conflict situation with a neighbor is not even worth mentioning : we won’t always have more weapons than them and countries cannot “change neighborhoods”...

Now, on the issue of the sea for Bolivia, I would like to specifically mention a rather curious experience I had with two characters. These were women and “committed” to humanitarian and progressive issues : one connected to the inequalities between men and women, and the other working with legal solutions to the “disappeared”. When compared with the military men mentioned above, these women had little reason to envy a nationalist activist. In their opinion, under no circumstances can we give away territory to our neighbors : sovereignty, territory, winning, etc.

Apart from finding such opinions strange, I was also confused since those who expressed them also claimed to be sensitive about the injustices on account of their everyday work. I was further surprised because they were women, and as such – by what I have learned from the demagogy of Bachelet’s Presidential Campaign and from what some sexist feminists transmit – they should have specific positive characteristics, just because they are women : they should be understanding, open, welcoming, consensual, etc. In fact, I would have thought that being expansionist and being against integration did not fit with the load of high “matrix” qualities, that both expansionism and sectarianism were, in fact, some of the classic male attitudes... more of their many negative qualities.

Finally, I would like to point out two things. Firstly, that the obstacles on Chilean integration derive from the chauvinism and racism felt by a significant number of citizens who base their feelings against other Latin American peoples, particularly against Bolivians, on this. This despicable attitude is the foundation of their superiority complex (which, in the end, is an inferiority one). Secondly, I will come to accept a confusion that is complicating me : while male chauvinism is accused of being unfair and lacking in rigorousness —in terms of sex (biology) and not of gender (culture)— as it stresses positive male qualities and negative female ones, those who reverse the equation are thought to be fair and rigorous. Lately, I have heard from the latter an “argument” which they seem to consider definitive : the “male chauvinist” accusation/judgment... even when they are supposed to understand “gender” issues (the study of cultural patterns associated to each sex) and to oppose biological sexism.

Let us go back to where we started, though : hurray for the existence of democratic, integrationist military men !







the Southern Cone Assembly ont the web

Visit the webpage of the Assembly : and the different blogs linked to its initiatives : the General Blog of the Argentinan team in Córdoba, the Blog of the revue Pensamiento Propio, the blog de la Regional Integration Chair.

Pictures of the 2009 women's meetings

Have a look at the pictures of the women’s meetings held in September and November 2009


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