Francisco Verdes-Montenegro is a postdoctoral researcher and lecturer at the Centre for International Studies (ICEI) at the Complutense University in Madrid. He came to Regensburg as the first Visiting Fellow of the Leibniz ScienceCampus Europe and America in the Modern World, spending a month in the city collaborating with colleagues across political science, international relations and Spanish studies.
His CITAS Brownbag Session was attended by colleagues and students from across the disciplines, with part of the discussion also taking place in Spanish, giving the students an opportunity to test their knowledge of the language with a native speaker. The multilingual discussion demonstrated the cross-cultural communication entailed by transnational area studies.
In his talk and in-depth discussion, Francisco addressed the issue of the remilitarization of Latin American politics and society. Drawing on his own research and official statistics, as well as the visual material produced by political actors across the region, he found a common trend, regardless of the orientation of the particular regimes on the political spectrum. Left-wing and right-wing governments sought to legitimize their turn towards what Francisco called the “policization” of the army with reference to perceived transnational threats, such as “cultural Marxism” or “imperialism”. Ultimately though, the goal of the regimes, he argued, is, firstly, to project an image of sovereignty as guardians of the nation and, secondly, to quell any urges towards civil unrest by symbolic shows of power. The measures are aimed at domestic audiences, since there is no recent historical precedent of Latin American countries entering into war with their neighbours.
The discussion suggested ways of positioning trends in Latin America in the global context of populism and a shift towards using defence forces for civil matters as states of exception and potential threats come to normalize the use of the army on the streets, something that impacts everyday life and can further social divisions.