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Intelligence organizations inside each military service have been regarded as a niche in which autonomy persists, in spite of the reforms undertaken. As we shall argue, this evident setback in the fostering of civilian control over defense institutions was rooted in instrumental political motives. As Poczynok has shown, in spite of the progress made in ensuring democratic control over the military in other areas, in the intelligence sector of the armed forces the influence of military authorities has remained unchecked.

The author lists a series of events involving the disclosure of illegal internal espionage operations conducted by military intelligence officers from all three services during the s, s and early s, showing the resistance of this sector to civilian command, particularly regarding the banning of surveillance activity over political actors. In most of the cases listed in the article, illegal operations were conducted autonomously by military authorities, though some were at the behest of civilian actors seeking to spy on or even blackmail political rivals, a practice that has become commonplace in modern Argentinian politics.

Following one of those scandals, in , the Defense Ministry passed a resolution removing all three intelligence divisions from the Joint Military Command and placing them under the defense ministry. Whereas this decision could fit into the category of indicators signaling the empowerment of defense ministries and the lowering of the military's vertical authority along the chain of command, Poczynok , p. The ousting of his former superior ensured Milani's power over the army's intelligence division, which, according to local analysts, later became a powerful influence over defense policy as a whole.

His nomination had two consequences that went against the previous steps taken towards a democratic defense policy. First, it increased the importance of the army's intelligence sector - under Milani's command - within the armed forces, a branch that, as previously mentioned, had been gathering domestic intelligence during the democratic period. Second, it challenged the existing policy on human rights, since Milani was suspected of having covered up the disappearance of an army recruit during the last dictatorship. Following the formalization of the accusation, and the submission of a request to Congress to reject the promotion signed by one of the main human rights NGO - the Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales - the government decided to postpone the vote.

Haunted by persistent suspicion - including allegations of corruption for which he was imprisoned in - Milani requested retirement in June Both issues had deep implications for civilian control and political leadership of defense policy. They raised serious concerns about the perils of empowering the intelligence branch of the army, particularly because Milani's promotion was one among a series of decisions that gave greater power to the sector.

This included, for example, the appointment of one of his subordinates as head of the division in charge of the president's security, the Casa Militar, the promotion to General of other high ranking officers from the same division, and a massive increase in the sector's budget, under the category of classified expenses DE VEDIA, Together, such actions point to the excessive empowerment of a part of the service that had proved to be highly untrustworthy.

Even when these decisions were taken legally and legitimately by democratically elected authorities, experts raised their concerns over their impacts in terms of healthy democratic relations between civilians and the military.

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For instance, Diamint a analyzed the decision to promote Milani by referring to the classical 'Huntigtonian' concept of subjective control. As the relationship between certain officers and political authorities becomes closer, the risk is that civilian control comes to depend more on political and personalistic relationships, and less on impersonal institutions and norms.

The analyst also points out that after democratization Argentinian citizens were no longer familiar with the names of the chiefs of the armed forces, seeing this as a sign of demilitarization. In sum, Cristina Kirchner's decisions regarding the army intelligence sector brought her closer to this shadowy actor, contradicting the need to lower the military's vertical authority along the chain of command.

As Pion-Berlin states, when political leaders do not have a civilian official acting as a buffer to military influence, there is a risk of political leadership ceding to the military's corporate needs, which is even more pressing in the context of an enduring identity crisis within the Argentinian military.

If we consider that both Kirchners were known for antagonizing rather than adhering to the interests of the armed forces, how can we account for this shift in policy? As stated in previous sections, this type of case has not yet been accounted for in the literature: civilian control weakened neither due to pressure exerted by the armed forces, nor by civilian authorities believing in the need for a more autonomous military, nor by the decision of a democratic leader to assign a new mission to the military.

Instead, these setbacks appear to have been caused by a realpolitik strategy, an instrumental approach to defense policy as one more means at the disposal of authorities to secure domestic political power. Indeed, some analysts reported that the motivation behind empowering the army's intelligence sector during Cristina Kirchner's second presidency was a dispute between the executive power and the intelligence community. Analysts claimed that the president started to distrust the former Secretary of Intelligence SIDE - a non-military agency - after they failed to deliver accurate evidence on whether Sergio Massa, an opposition politician, would run for the House of Representatives in Allegedly, the spies had deliberately given her false information as retaliation for the signing of an agreement with Iran to prosecute Iranian citizens suspected of having taking part in the AMIA bombing, in During the Kirchners' presidencies, this unlawful practice empowered a group of spies - led by Stiuso - who later turned against the authorities.

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In other words, an organism meant to serve national security is recurrently employed by elected authorities to advance their own power-seeking agendas, even by illicit actions. That politicians regularly use the SIDE to pursue their own self-interest should not obscure the fact that an important sector of the espionage community has gained significant autonomy from elected authorities.

These groups represent a significant part of a broader network of criminal actors which has been referred to as the 'crypto-state' BONASSO, , a structure that is fundamentally incompatible with democracy. Nestor Kirchner's most important piece of legislation on matters of defense - the executive order that regulates the National Defense Law - did not only seek to strengthen the democratic organizational design of defense institutions.

It also reinforced the demarcation principle, since it went even further than the law in restricting military missions by establishing that the type of aggression that called for the use of the military was of an 'armed and state nature'. Moreover, it explicitly mentioned the 'new threats' of drug trafficking and terrorism as not being legitimate cases for the deployment of the armed forces.

In other words, it ruled out conflicts involving non-state actors as a basis for the development of military doctrine, planning, resources and training. This demonstrates how a normative concept thought to be essential to shielding democracy from military political power in a context of the end of the 'dirty war' was transformed into a principle for opposing the re-purposing of the military in the post-Cold War period, in a direction in which the United States was insistently trying to push Latin American countries.

Even though no substantial change in national legislation or doctrine was decided, during Cristina Kirchner's second period as president a series of decisions constituted a modest but significant shift away from the prevailing policy of preventing military participation in the fight against organized crime. In July , the president signed an executive order implementing 'Operation North Shield', under the jurisdiction of the ministry of Internal Security, and including, in article 05, the collaboration of the Defense ministry.

The Operation's main goal was to increase surveillance and control over the country's earth, water and air space in the north-eastern and north-western borders, as well as the arrest of subjects operating illegally in those regions. In spite of the general nature of the wording, it is known that the main concern was with drug trafficking, since it is suspected that traffickers and their supplies enter the country from Paraguay and Bolivia. The Operation has been repeated every year since its creation, even during the administration of Cristina Kirchner's successor, Mauricio Macri , who represents the other end of the ideological spectrum.

Government authorities insisted that no part of the operation jeopardized the 'demarcation principle', since the three services were supposed to play strictly supporting roles, neither being involved in direct combat, nor gathering information on domestic or foreign non-state actors. In effect, according to the terms of the order, the armed forces' participation - under the name of 'Operation Fort II' - amounts to assisting surveillance activities by lending its radar system, including equipment, the necessary personnel to operate them and data processing capabilities.

Army personnel are supposed to inform civilian authorities whenever surveillance activities identify a positive lead, and under no circumstance are they allowed to intervene in the arrest of suspects. The issue goes beyond a matter of potential mission creep or human rights abuses, involving a deeper question, namely, the various controversies over the strategy of militarization for confronting drug-trafficking.

As mentioned earlier, the debate over the deployment of the armed forces in domestic roles includes a perspective which maintains that, as long as it is the decision of democratically elected authorities, respects human rights standards, and has the support of public opinion, there should be no reason to question the use of the military to combat crime. Regarding the requirement of legitimacy, it is interesting to point out that there is increasing support for the involvement of the armed forces in anti-drugs border operations among Argentinian political leaders.

For the first time in many years, voices calling for the involvement of the armed forces against crime appear to outnumber those against it, indicating that what the previous consensus vocalized by the epistemic community of defense no longer enjoys the same appeal. In fact, during the presidential campaign all three main candidates were in favor of some kind of transformation of military missions that involved the armed forces in anticrime operations ANZELINI, , which is somewhat surprising since the armed forces are seldom referred to during electoral speeches.

In November , the governing party candidate - Daniel Scioli - lost the election to his ideological rival: Mauricio Macri, the leader of the 'Cambiemos' alliance. While, as we have said, all three leading candidates for the presidency expressed reservations regarding the demarcation principle, Macri represents the political sector that had always criticized defense reforms, which they understood as excessive, retaliatory actions that had only alienated the armed forces CELS, During his presidential campaign, Macri assured voters that, once elected president, the fight against drug trafficking would be a top priority for his administration.

This piece of legislation has been interpreted by critics as a step further in the militarization process as it allowed the Air Force to shoot down civilian airplanes which failed to prove their operations were legal. Some have considered it as a turning point since the country had always been reluctant to pass a 'Ley de derribo', resisting pressure from the United States, who insisted that Latin American countries implement this practice as part of their contribution to the war on drugs. The change in style and emphasis, however, should not obscure the fact that the previous administration - ideologically and discursively opposed to 'the militarization of security' - had already devised this strategy.

This convergence in approach should be understood as a general tendency among Latin American civilian authorities to take decisions on military missions - a decisive part of defense policy - on the basis of short-term needs.

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The impacts of this on civil-military relations should be assessed in comparison to pressure arising from the military, as is was the case in previous eras and remains so today in some other countries or regions. Similarly to the empowerment of army intelligence, pragmatic, short-term motivations at the expense of thorough, cautious redefinitions of military roles and security demands, account for changes in the involvement of the armed forces in internal security during Cristina Kirchner's time in power. After several years of a relative decline in criminal activity, particularly kidnappings, the crime rate began to deteriorate again, especially in the peripheries of major cities.

This trend is typically attributed to drug-trafficking. In light of both the complexity of this situation and high levels of police corruption, in December , the government decided to deploy officers from the Gendarmeria - an intermediate force in charge of patrolling the borders - to help police forces solve the public security crisis.

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Initially, the government created Operation 'Centinela', which involved the deployment of gendarmes in the region known as the 'conurbano bonaerense', a set of highly populated towns adjacent to the city of Buenos Aires. Despite not being among the Latin American countries with the worst crime rates, public security has become an genuine problem in Argentina.

More importantly, it has become a top concern for public opinion, thus impacting on the political agenda, particularly during electoral years. But while in countries such as Colombia and Mexico results are difficult to obtain due to the complexity and lethality of criminal groups and the lack of adequately trained and equipped police forces, the Argentinian case has not yet reached such levels.

In fact, a good part of the literature that supports the deployment of the military for public security purposes does so on the basis that elsewhere security challenges have proliferated where states lack effective sovereignty over considerable parts of the national territory. Argentinian experts have depicted a somewhat different state of affairs in the country, a situation that can be extended to other countries in the Southern Cone and that reveals the instrumental dynamic that reaches from the internal security realm to defense.

On the one hand, there is an agreement between politicians and senior police authorities whereby the former delegate to the latter the role of both formulating and implementing public security policy, meaning they may run their own institutions autonomously, with almost no political direction or oversight. On the other hand, there is a pact between police chiefs and criminal groups whereby the former regulate crime to guarantee that violence is kept at an acceptable rate which will not cause major social unrest, a situation which political authorities wish to avoid.

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Thus, in the Argentinian case, the notion of a state overpowered by criminal forces is a fiction, a mere pretext to implement militarized policies with doubtful prospects of success. In this context, if limited criminal control of some territories is agreed upon by police authorities rather than conquered by illegal organizations with exceptional fire power, the recapturing of those areas is not a matter of bringing in an actor with greater military capabilities and fewer corrupt individuals.

Rather, it looks as if politicians were, once again, only calling on the military for short-term reasons, knowing that it would not solve the problem, but might improve their chances of winning the next election. The two setbacks identified by analysts concerned about the democratic standards of Argentina's defense policy are better explained by reference to Cristina Kirchner's instrumental political interests than as a deliberate reformulation of the previous outlook on civilian control. In the case of Milani's empowerment, allowing the army's intelligence sector to further encroach on defense policy was instrumental to both replace and contain the espionage community, which had turned against the elected authorities, representing a menace to democracy in its own right.

In the second case, the decision to deploy military troops in border regions was neither the result of a considered decision to abandon the demarcation principle and assign a clearer mission to the armed forces, nor of a careful evaluation of the rise in drug-trafficking and increasing complexity security challenges, that necessitated the involvement of a more powerful and less corruptible force. Rather, the decision was taken to fill the void left in border patrolling after a considerable number of gendarmes had been sent to the peripheries of major cities.

In other words, the deployment of soldiers in border areas was an instrumental attempt to solve a problem caused by another instrumental decision: that of the need to increase police presence in peripheral areas - where drug-related violence actually happens. However, even here there was no serious intention of solving the real issue, namely, that crime thrives under the alliance between criminals and the police, and between the police and political authorities. It might not even be the case of a 'criminal state', since authorities do not necessarily take part in criminal endeavors by being associates or receiving bribes.

What they do profit from is a pact whereby a reduction in violence allows them to be re-elected, without having to risk their political capital, or even their lives, in a real fight against criminal organizations. While there is little debate regarding the negative implications of the deterioration of civilian control due to reversals in the organizational design of defense institutions, as we showed in section one, the adoption of public security missions by the armed forces has caused greater controversy. Critics' resistance to this shift in missions has been countered by those who question whether, after three decades of democratic civilian control policies, it is now time to entrust the armed forces with internal missions, particularly amidst the current surge in criminal violence.

We have shown that in the Argentinian case, and possibly in others with similar conditions, the question is not whether the military is now a trustworthy actor, but whether the policy in general is adequate or not. If decisions by political authorities to involve the military in public security is rooted in political calculations based on short-term interests, if it is known that it will not solve the issue because it will do nothing to undermine the underlying double pact, can we still call it a legitimate decision with no major repercussions for democracy?

Apart from the pertinent points habitually raised by critics of the war on drugs, such as the impact on human rights, mass incarceration, and a rise in violence, we believe there are two important ways, insufficiently addressed by the literature of civil-military relations, in which the militarization of drug-trafficking places stress on democracy. First, whereas the militarization of the fight against organized crime might, under certain conditions, make sense as an inescapable measure in countries with heavily armed, violent criminal groups, which exert control over extensive parts of the territory, in Argentina, drug organizations are much smaller, less complex, and have, so far, negotiated with state actors rather than confronting them militarily.

The existence of de facto collusion between political authorities and traffickers suggests that the deployment of the armed forces may be nothing more than a strategy 'to change so that everything stays the same'.


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While this approach may work for ambitious politicians, it certainly poses serious risks for democracy: as they continue to suffer from the violence and insecurity generated by crime, Latin American citizens will likely lose the little confidence they have in political parties, the courts, and the free press.

In other words, the insistence on a militarized strategy against drug-trafficking threatens democracy not only by what it achieves - increase violence, corruption, and human rights violations - but also by what it fails to accomplish: to solve one of Latin American democracies' most urgent challenges. Secondly, the revival of military tutelage itself should not be discarded as a potential repercussion of sustaining a bound-to-fail strategy against organized crime.

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