Posts filed under ‘BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China)’

INTERNATIONAL CRIME: Guns and Drugs in Africa

Transnational Crime in Africa, Latin America

12-gauge shotgun ammo (Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Casey N.  Thuston)

12-gauge shotgun ammo
(Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Casey N. Thuston)

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia – 4GWAR has reported in the past on how Latin American drug cartels are using countries in West Africa as transit points for drugs heading to Europe and points East. Now we learn from a federal official that small arms – particularly shotguns and shotgun shells – have become an illicit trading commodity in West Africa.

Many countries in West Africa have porous borders, weak law enforcement agencies or grinding poverty that makes government officials susceptible to bribes and corruption – and attractive for arms and drug smugglers. Officials in Gambia, Guinea, Mauritania and Sierra Leone have been implicated in drug trafficking in recent years, according to a United Nations report. Guinea-Bissau is considered to be virtually under the control of narco cartels.

Kevin O’Keefe, chief of the Criminal Intelligence Division at the U.S. ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) told a conference on transnational organized crime this week that the low tech, low maintenance weapons like shotguns are being shipped illegally to places like Nigeria, Ghana and Liberia. They are sought, not for military or terrorist use, but as a commodity to be bought and sold on the black market.

Shotguns are “not readily available in those countries, so anything you bring over, you’re going to make a profit on,” O’Keefe told 4GWAR after his presentation at the Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).

“Nobody’s going to overthrow a country or command any big presence with shotguns,” O’Keefe said, “but we find 12-gauge shotguns being regularly trafficked back there because they’re easy to move and if you pay a couple hundred dollars here, there’s a big profit margin once you sell them in these countries.”

At the same conference, the head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) said drugs like cocaine were being shipped from several South American countries – including Brazil – to West Africa. But Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly, who oversees U.S. Military interests in all of Central and South America – except Mexico – noted that nearly all the navies and maritime police operations in the region were helping in the war on drugs. The Brazilian Navy has taken it upon itself to patrol the South Atlantic looking for pirates and other criminal activities in the waters off West Africa, he noted.

“Brazil is oriented toward Africa,” said Kelly, noting it shares a common language – Portuguese – with several African nations that were once Portuguese colonies. “Brazil is starting to step out and wants to become a world power,” Kelly said, adding that it is concerned about piracy and sees counter-piracy as  a “niche” operation it can perform. He noted that a Brazilian naval officer has served with the U.S. 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, which oversees U.S. counter-piracy operations off the Horn of Africa. Brazil’s Navy has also participated in patrol operations with the U.S. Navy off West Africa, he said.

April 24, 2013 at 11:56 pm Leave a comment

AFRICA: The China Question, Mali Fighting

Xi in Africa

China’s new president, Xi Jinping, is in the middle of a four day tour of Africa – part of his first trip abroad as national leader.

Xi will be attending a two day conference of leaders of the so-called BRICS countries starting today (March 26). The BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – form an economic bloc made up of many of the world’s leading emerging economies. But Xi is also trying to assure Africans that China interest in their continent isn’t just as a market for its manufactured goods and a source of the raw materials needed by its factories.

MAP-Tanzania

His first stop in Africa this week (March 24) was Tanzania. China has had a close relationship with the country since it gained its independence from Britain in the 1960s. Thousands of Chinese engineers and laborers built a railroad connecting Tanzania with Zambia in the ’60s and ’70s, according to Xinhua’s English.news.cn website.

At a conference center in Dar es Salaam built with Chinese assistance, Xi assured the audience and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete that China was interested in helping African nations develop their economies, pledging $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next two years. He also said China would train 30,000 African professionals, offer 18,000 scholarships to African students and “increase technology transfer and experience,” Reuters reported.

China’s trade with all African countries reached $198 billion in total value in 2012, an increase of 19.3 percent from 2011, according to Chinese customs statistics, the New York Times reported. Much of that trade consists of oil, minerals and other commodities from Angola, Nigeria and other resource-rich countries, the Times said.

After the two-day BRICS meeting Durban, South Africa, Xi will wind up his first foreign tour with a visit to the Republic of Congo (not be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo — formerly known as Zaire.)

At a Washington symposium on conservation and national security that your 4GWAR editor attended last week, a former Bush administration diplomat said China had made Africa “strategic.”

“I think that strategic engagement is going to translate into political influence and geo-strategic influence,” said Jendayi Frazer, the first woman appointed U.S. Ambassador to South Africa and a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs. “I think it will show up in things like the United Nations Security Council and how votes start to go in the U.N. General Assembly and other such venues,” she added.

But, “African citizens are becoming increasingly impatient with the flood of Chinese laborers” into their labor markets “and particularly, cheap goods and the supply chain” supporting Chinese traders in the African marketplace. “It’s a big problem,” she told the gathering, co-sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and Conservation International.

Frazer, now a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, noted however, that China’s “model of supporting business and their strategic outlook in Africa, is something we in the West should emulate. We should do a better job of helping our private sector” in Africa and other regions.

[You can see a video of Frazer and some of the other speakers at this symposium by clicking here. Your 4GWAR editor's question about AFRICOM is at 57 minutes and 55 seconds on the tape. Frazer's comments on China in Africa are at 1 hour, 3 minutes into the tape, followed by her comments on AFRICOM.]

Mali Update

Mali [click on image to enlarge]CIA World Factbook

Mali [click on image to enlarge]
CIA World Factbook

Six people – including one civilian – have been killed in fighting between Islamist rebels and French and Malian forces in the northern city of Gao (see map), according to Voice of America.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda’s North African affiliate has named a replacement for a key commander killed by Chadian soldiers in Mali’s northern mountains last month, according to an Algerian broadcaster, VOA reported. The new guy, Djamel Okacha – also known as Yahia Abu El Hamam – is slated to replace Abdelhamid Abou Zeid as a leader of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, commonly known as AQIM, according to Algeria’s Ennahar TV.

March 26, 2013 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Kidnappings in Cameroon and Nigeria, Brazil meets Angola, Tunisian Unrest

Kidnappings on Rise

Cameroon-mapWesterners, particularly French nationals, are being targeted for abduction by Islamist militants, angered over France’s campaign against anti-government Islamist insurgents in Mali, according to The Africa Report website.

Analysts suspect that terrorist groups in Nigeria, Mali, Chad and Niger are working together to avenge what they see as a war on radical Islam, the website said.

The latest attack came Tuesday (Feb. 20) when a family of French tourists – including four children – were kidnapped in Cameroon by armed men on motorbikes. The seven French nationals were seized near a wildlife sanctuary in northern Cameroon and were taken across the border into Nigeria. No group has taken credit for the attack although authorities suspect Ansarum, an offshoot of the violent Nigerian Islamist group, Boko Haram.

The incident brings to 15 the number of French nationals being held by kidnappers in Northwest Africa. Seven French nationals are being held by an al Qaeda affiliate – al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Another Frenchman was taken by Ansarum last June, according to the BBC.

On Saturday, seven foreigners were kidnapped during an attack on a Lebanese construction site in northern Nigeria. Ansarum has taken responsibility for that attack, saying it was in retaliation for France’s attack on militants in Mali. Islamist extremists have been responsible for the deaths of numerous foreigners in Nigeria including North Korean doctors and Chinese construction workers, according to The Guardian.

Brazil, Angola Seek Closer Ties

Angola in Africa(CIA World Factbook)

Angola in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The governments of Brazil and Angola have agreed to form a joint defense committee to supervise cooperation and annual meetings to be held in both countries, the Angola Press Agency (ANGOP) reports.

The agreement was announced in a communique issued at the end of a two-day visit to Angola’s capital, Luanda, by a Brazilian delegation headed by Defense Minister Celso Nunes Morim.

Morim, who was accompanied by several business people on the trip, told a press briefing at the Angolan Foreign Ministry that Brazil is looking to cooperate with Angola on defense issues like training and joint exercises, according to ANGOP. “The simple fact that these business people have come to Angola shows that the interest is not restricted to selling alone, but also to seek partnerships and joint investment possibilities as this is important for the country’s development,” Nunes Morin stated.

Angola is looking to Brazil for support to strengthen its own defence industry, to reduce the Angolan Armed Forces (FAA)’s dependence on foreign military equipment sales, according to Angola’s defense minister, Cândido Pereira dos Santos Van-Dunem.

Brazil has the strongest economy in South America and has been looking for foreign partners to supply equipment and manufacturing technology to strengthen its defense forces and defense industry.

Both countries are former Portuguese colonies.

Tunisia Uproar

Tunisia in Africa(CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia, the North African country — where the Arab Spring began more than two years ago — has been lurching through a political crisis since Feb. 6 when leftist politician and opposition leader  Chokri Belaid was assassinated.

No one took responsibility for the fatal shooting but Belaid’s supporters blamed the ruling Islamist Ennahda Party — which vehemently denied any hand in the murder — according to AFP via channelnewsasia.com

The politician’s murder sparked violent street protests and strikes. Then-Prime Minister Hamadi Jebali tried to defuse the situation by announcing plans to create a non-Islamist cabinet of technocrats. The proposal failed and Jebali, resigned.

Now Presidentr Moncef Marzouki has been holding meetings with top politicians to pull the country out of the crisis.

Meanwhile, according to ForeignPolicy.com‘s Middle East Channel, the political instability is hurting Tunisia’s fragile economy. Remember: It was protests about high unemployment and food prices as well as government corruption that precipitated regime change in January 2011. Now Standard and Poor’s has downgraded Tunisia’s credit rating because of the “risk that the political situation could deteriorate further…”

February 20, 2013 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil, Colombia, Chile

Brazil: May Buy Russian Air Defense System

Brazil: CIA World Factbook

Brazil: CIA World Factbook

Brazil’s Defense Ministry says it will recommend that the government buy anti-aircraft and air defense systems from Russia, Reuters reports. According to a statement on its website, the Defense Ministry said it would present a proposal to President Dilma Rouseff for her approval.

Gen. Jose Carlos De Nardi, chief of staff of Brazil’s Armed Forces, said Brazil is interested inacquiring three batteries of medium level Pantsir-S1 missiles and two batteries of Igla missiles.

According to Pravda, De Nardi headed a Brazilian delegation that visited Russia last month to discuss the arms purchase. The deal is expected to be signed later this month when Russia Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev visits Brazil. Part of the deal would be a technology transfer allowing Brazil to make and sell the missile systems in Latin America.

And the Moscow Times reports that Medvedev’s deputy, Dmitry Rogozin, says Russia would be interested in starting a long-term military partnership with Brazil.

We told you last month that Brazil, the world’s 6th largest economy has been building up its military capabilities as part of a defense strategy to safeguard its borders, offshore oil fields and the Amazon basin from foreign intrusion. That buildup has drawn several foreign defense contractors like France’s DCNS, America’s Boeing and Sweden’s Saab to bid for Bazil’s business.

Colombia: FARC Rebels Propose Legalizing Coca, Marijuana Crops

Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia image

Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia image

The rebel group that has been waging war against Colombia’s government since the 1960s has come up with a novel idea for land reform: legalizing some of the cash crops that can be turned into illegal narcotics, the BBC reports.

The guerrillas’ proposal came during ongoing peace talks in Cuba with the Colombian government. The chief negotiator for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the acronym FARC, said legalization of drug crops like poppy, coca and marijuana should be considered for therapeutic, industrial or cultural reasons. Land reform and ending drug trafficking have been two key topics at the negotiations

Chile: Not Exactly a Sea Chanty

Chile and "friends"CIA World factbook

Chile and “friends”
CIA World factbook

Embarrassed officials in Chile are promising a swift investigation into a viral video showing Chilean naval cadets chanting they will kill opponents in three neighboring nations — they are not at war with.

According to CNN, the video shows the cadets repeating the cadence of their instructor: “Argentineans I will kill; Bolivians I will shoot; Peruvians I’ll behead” as they run through the streets. Historically, Chile has had prickly relationships with its neighbors — like Bolivia whose seacoast Chile seized in a 19th Century war, the BBC reported.

Click on all of the maps to enlarge the image.

 

 

 

February 7, 2013 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

4GWAR Blog News: 2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for the 4GWAR blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 210,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 4 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a (very) small country in Europe!

Last year 4GWAR was thrilled to receive more than 134,000 visits. This year’s visits totaled 209,970.

Most of those views came from the United States (84,926). In descending order, the top 10 foreign viewing countries were. 1. Britain (8,645); 2. Canada (7,008); 3. India (4,568); 4. Germany (4,082); 5. Australia (3,292); 6. France (3,271); 7. Brazil (2,288); 8. Poland (2,192); 9. Russia (1,984); 10. Pakistan, (1,795).

Indonesia was close behind at 1,769 views. The African country with the biggest viewership was South Africa with 840. Three of the five most viewed 4GWAR posts were about Africa.

Thanks to all who visited 4GWAR in 2012, we hope to see more of you in 2013!

January 2, 2013 at 11:24 pm Leave a comment

NAVAL WARFARE: Brazilian Navy S&T Chief Wants Access to U.S. High Tech

Blue Amazon

Brazilian submarines
Brazilian Navy photo via Wikipedia

The head of the Brazilian Navy’s science and technology (S&T) unit thinks the United States should ease up its technology export controls for one of its key allies in Latin America.

“We would like it if the U.S. would be sensitive to Brazilian technology needs,” Admiral Wilson Guerra told a session of the Office of Naval Research’s S&T Partnership Conference this week.

Guerra, speaking Portuguese and translated by simultaneous interpreters, said “technology embargoes” had prevented Brazil from obtaining radar-evading stealth technology. “Brazil is a major partner with the U.S.,” Guerra said, adding that both countries’ navies “have been working together for a long time.”

As Secretary of Science, Technology and Innovation for the Brazilian Navy, Guerra outlined the naval portion of his country’s new strategic plan. It involves strengthening the military’s presence in the Amazon Region and its many rivers. Another part calls for paying as much attention to the waters 100 miles off Brazil’s 7,491 kilometer/6,654 mile coastline as to the Amazon, long seen as a major contributor to Brazil’s economy.

“The Brazilian people didn’t understand the significance of the sea” Guerra said, so the shift in priorities was dubbed the Blue Amazon (Amazonia Azul video in Portuguese) to signify the economic and strategic importance of the sea coast and its deeper waters which are believed to contain vast petroleum deposits.

Keeping those resources secure is one reason for Brazil’s “new strategic vision,” which links national defense with national development. 4GWAR first reported about Brazil’s new strategic defense plan two years ago when then-Defense Minister Nelson Jobim spoke at George Washington University in Washington, DC.

Guerra said it was not just a naval strategy but a strategy “for the entire Brazilian state.”

A camouflaged Brazilian Navy patrol boat in the Amazon region.
Brazilian Navy photo via Wikipedia

For the military, the plan calls for one aircraft carrier, 23 escort vessels, 28 district patrol boats, eight submarines and the construction of a nuclear submarine with French assistance. Three French/Spanish-designed Scorpene subs have been built so far.

Guerra said eventually Brazil will have two fleets. One based in Rio de Janiero, the other farther north in or near the Amazon.

October 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

STRATEGY: Has the ‘Great Game’ Moved to the Sea?

Russia Considers New Naval Bases

As the United States military shifts attention to the Asia Pacific region and reaches agreements to base troops and ships in Australia, Singapore and possibly the Philippines, Russia is considering expanding its overseas naval bases.

Russian Ministry of Defense photo

Currently, Moscow has only one overseas military installation – a naval supply base at Tartus in civil war-wracked Syria. But the commander of the Russian navy recently said he is looking at opening bases in Cuba, Vietnam and on the Indian Ocean island chain of the Seychelles.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries the political and military jockeying – especially espionage – by Russia and Britain for influence in Central Asia was called “the Great Game.” But after World War II the United States replaced the British Empire and the Soviet Union succeeded the Russian Empire as players of the Great Game.

But now it appears the “Game” may be moving East and West and out to sea with Moscow suggesting it needs more naval bases around the world. “It is true, we are working on the deployment of Russian naval bases outside Russian territory,” Vice Admiral Viktor Chirkov told the RIA Novosti news agency July 27, according to several western news accounts.

But a day later, Russia’s defense ministry, denied that it was trolling for new bases. In a statement the ministry called the reports a media “fantasy” and said Chirkov – who does not have the authority to make such deals with other governments – was misquoted, AFP reported.

Yesterday (August 1), Pravda reported that the base expansions were being planned for “rest and replenishment of the crews after the campaign in the area and not military bases.” But Russian warships could do both, if necessary, Pravda added “given the good attitudes of the leaders of these countries toward Russia.”

At the Pentagon, Defense Department spokesman George Little said last week that Russia is within its rights “to enter into military agreements and relationships” with other countries, Bloomberg Businessweek reported, noting that Russia has been building up its Navy since 2008.

Pundits and politicians around the world were quick to speculate about what it all means. Some thought Vietnam – nervous about China’s bullying behavior in the South China Sea, where massive deposits of oil and gas are thought to exist beneath the sea bed – is looking for a big partner to counter Beijing. Others believed Cuba and Venezuela might be looking for a champion as a buffer against the U.S.

Cuban leader Raul Castro met with Moscow officials last month and Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Russia recently. The talks were said to include exploring closer military ties but no announcement was made. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also met with Sang in June and visited the Cam Ranh Bay facility. Sang previously said the naval base’s facilities would be open to all friendly navies.

Cam Ranh Bay may via Wikipedia

The Soviet Union took over the massive naval base at Cam Ranh Bay in 1979 after the U.S. pulled out of Vietnam in the mid 1970s. But after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russian officials decided the rent Vietnam wanted to charge for continued use of its facility was too high and withdrew its personnel in 2002. That was the same year Russia closed its radar facility in Lourdes, Cuba, where the Soviet Union had operated an intelligence-gathering base since the 1960s.

Several analysts expressed doubts that the aged Russian Navy poses any strategic threat in the near term.

August 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm Leave a comment

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