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The role of Urban Upgrading in Latin America as warfare tool against the “Slums Wars”

Abstract

This paper explores the rhetorical similitudes in two fields not usually examined together: new practices of multi-level urban upgrading in Latin America and contra insurgence urban warfare the- ory and practices. This article argues that there is a trend in Latin America towards multi practice (urban upgrading) design as a tool for the state agencies to re-conquer spaces where the right of the state to control the means of repression, as defined by Max Webber, is in frontal contestation. This study suggests that government agencies and military organizations see urban informality as providing sophisticated advantage to asymmetrical contenders, such as Al Quaeda vs. the United States, Palestinians refugee camps vs. the Israeli army or FARC vs. Colombian Government. In these “fourth generation wars,” between nonstate actors and governments, destroying the intrin- sic advantages of the informal built structures becomes necessary to attain military supremacy. This military urban strategy provides a new perspective from which to explore some of the latest urban upgrading projects located in conflict zones in Latin America. I argue that from this perspec- tive, urban upgrading projects are militaristic tools that give leverage to state forces in the asym- metrical war against the illegal armed groups based in the same informal urban environments where the upgrading occurs. Finally, I conclude that such uses of urban upgrading are not per se perverse, but that from a practical and theoretical perspective, professionals in the academy and practitioners in the field should be aware of the military mechanism operating within urban upgrading in the context of these “slums wars.” 

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