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Growing Participation in Peace Operations and Conflict Resolution in Latin American Countries  

Kai Michael Kenkel

Latin American states have become major providers of troops for UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) since the early 2000s. MINUSTAH (Mission des Nations Unies pour la stabilisation en Haïti), the UN mission in Haiti, 55% of whose troops were from the region, was a major watershed for local security cooperation and PKO contributions. Led by Brazil, these states were able to develop a specific approach to peacebuilding that reflects regional strengths and experiences, rooted in minimizing the use of force and bringing successful domestic development policies to bear abroad. This approach also reflects the common security and intervention culture that underpins policy in the region. Two states in particular have taken on a role as major providers of peacekeeping contingents. Tiny Uruguay, with a population of 3 million people, has maintained over 2,000 troops deployed on UN PKOs (more than 10% of its armed forces) since 2005. While Uruguay’s motivations are mostly economic—UN reimbursements exceed the country’s costs—Brazil’s ascendance as a major peacekeeping provider during MINUSTAH was part of a larger emerging-power foreign policy project. Participating in peacebuilding allowed the country to provide security through actions in the development realm, bridging a key gap in many rising states’ capabilities, and to mount an incipient challenge to the Western-led peacebuilding paradigm. The remaining states of Latin America show considerable diversity in their peacekeeping engagement, with many others sending small or token contributions and some no troops at all. Latin American states’ involvement in PKOs cannot be understood without looking at their interaction with patterns of civil–military relations in the region. In the case of such states, the effect of peacekeeping participation on civil–military relations, while a key point in need of monitoring, has not been decisive, as other factors prevail. Finally, PKOs have served as the locus for a significant increase in policy coordination and cooperation in the defense arena in the region. As the UN moves toward stabilization operations which privilege counterterrorism measures over the peacebuilding paradigm that is a strength of Latin American countries, PKOs may lose attractiveness as a foreign policy avenue in the region. Additionally, the swing to the right in recent elections may serve to reduce the appeal of a practice which came to the fore under previous left-wing governments.