The Pentagon’s affinity for a “Salvadoran Option” in Iraq appears consistent with its broader shift to promote a strong state security apparatus internationally in the fight against terrorism. In a summit of Latin American defense ministers held in Quito, Ecuador, in late 2004, Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld unveiled his campaign to reverse nearly two decades of military reform in Latin America. Though the summit went largely unreported in the U.S. media, we may look back at it in years to come as a significant watershed for American foreign policy.
Central to Rumsfeld’s Quito doctrine is the re-integration of the military and police, reversing a major reform objective in the hemisphere during the last two decades. Both U.S. and Latin American human rights agencies deem that separation of powers necessary to bring military activity under civilian accountability.
During the drafting of the final summit statement, the Canadian delegation tried to salvage the gains for civilian freedoms once absent in the region’s former security states. Backed by Brazil and Chile, the Canadian defense ministry introduced language that would reaffirm a commitment to international human rights and civil protections. The Pentagon team, however, successfully blocked this corrective from being added to the summit’s final documents.