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Dangerous Alliances: Populists and the Military

Author: Adam Scharpf

Affiliation: German Institute of Global and Area Studies

Organization/Publisher: GIGA Focus

Date/Place: February 2020/ Hamburg, Germany 

Type of Literature: Journal Article

Number of Pages:12


Keywords: Populist, Populism, Military, Latin America, Civil-Military Relations


Latin America has a history of military interventions and toppling down of civilian governments. The era of civilian supremacy came during 2017-18, when populist governments were established in Chile, Paraguay, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil. But unprecedently, there is an emerging alliance between populist regimes and military in terms of power sharing. According to this study, the public trust in the military is compelling civilian regimes to accommodate it in the political sphere. Moreover, it is not a new phenomenon that the military is having a role of political entity in Latin America. Furthermore, the deprived economic conditions in South America and weak institutional structure invites the third force (i.e. military) to manipulate the circumstances in its favor. Masses also believe that men in uniform are apolitical, incorruptible and effective policymakers, having ability to resolve the socioeconomic problems. On the other hand, the military always accepted the invitation provided by the inability of civilian machinery, to interfere in the political affairs of State. According to this study, militaries in Latin America now want to capitalize on these opportunities, restoring lost prestige, and governing masses with authority and force. The author concludes that as long as Latin America’s structural problems remain unresolved, i.e. economic inequality, weak institutions, corruption, and insecurity, the motivation of governments and militaries to include more soldiers in politics is likely to prevail.

By: Muhammad Taimoor Bin Tanveer, CIGA Research Associate



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