Military Moves into Environmental Management in South America

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

Environmental and land management in South America is being slowly but persistently militarized, with the aim of controlling extractive industries, especially gold mining. In Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela, as well as other countries, both conservative and progressive governments participate in this militarization. The basic dispute is not so much in avoiding negative environmental and social impacts, as in controlling economic surpluses.

Colombia: Environmental Management as a Security Policy

Colombian president Iván Duque recently presented the National Development Plan that will guide his four-year administration. The novelty is that it includes environmental management under national security and defense policies (1). Protection of biodiversity and water now appear alongside objectives such as defending borders and territorial sovereignty.

The measure creates a new security force for “Comprehensive Environmental Protection”, made up of military and police officers who coordinate with prosecutors and environmental authorities. The Ministry of the Environment joins the National Security Council, environmental issues will be incorporated into the National Security Strategy and possibly even into the National Intelligence Strategy.

From this “security” perspective, nature is presented as an “asset”. This is not a neutral concept– it comes from the business world and promotes the fragmentation of nature that prioritizes the…

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