Posts filed under ‘Latin America’
Dawn Blitz 2013
The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are conducting a large amphibious exercise off the Southern California coast called Dawn Blitz 2013. But this year’s exercise, which runs from June 11-28, is a little different from previous ones. It has morphed into a multi-national exercise with troops from New Zealand and Canada and — for the first time — the Japanese Self Defense Forces participating.
In fact about 1,000 Japanese sailors and soldiers are taking part in the exercise as well as . New Zealand and Canada which have have sent company-sized contingents of between 150 and 200 troops. There are also small detachments serving as observers from Australia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.
The participation of so many Latin American countries indicates that the shift — or pivot — in U.S. strategy to the Pacific takes in more than just the Far East. “When we talk pivot, it’s much more than Asia,” says Brig. Gen. John Broadmeadow, commanding general of both the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade and the 1st Marine Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
The American contingent in the massive exercise is about 4,000 sailors and Marines, Broadmeadow told a defense bloggers roundtable today (June 13)
Dawn Blitz is a multilateral amphibious exercise designed to strengthen international partnerships by improving the ability to respond to crises and protect the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.
But both Broadmeadow and Brig. Gen. Richard Simcock II — who spoke to the blogger’s group Tuesday (June 11) took pains to say the exercise had no political ramifications despite news reports in Asia that it was meant to send a message to China which is in a escalating dispute with Japan over possession of a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea.
Although amphibious operations on San Clemente Island are scheduled for June 17, the exercise “has nothing to do with retaking an island,” said Broadmeadow.
In addition to troops from Japan’s Western Army Infantry Regiment as well as helicopters and other units from the Western Army Aviation Group and Japanese Air Defense Command, the Japanese contingent included three ships from the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force which sailed across the Pacific from Japan to California with a stop in Hawaii.
U.S. Navy vessels from the Expeditionary Strike Group 3, including the USS Boxer, USS Peleliu, USS New Orleans and USS Harpers Ferry — all amphibious assault or transport ships –and the guided missile cruiser USS Cowpens, are taking part in the Exercise.
Another first for the exercise was expected Friday (June 14) when a Marine Corps MV-22 tilt-rotor aircraft lands aboard one of the Japanese ships, the Hyuga [see photo below], for the first time. Broadmeadow said it wasn’t the first time an MV-22 had landed on the deck of a foreign Navy vessel — just the first time for a Japanese ship..
Broadmeadow also said members of MARSOC, the Marine Corps special operations unit, would take part in the exercise.
LATIN AMERICA: (UPDATE) OAS-War on Drugs; Colombia on NATO; Brazil-U.S. Meeting; Ex-Guatemala Dictator
OAS Pushback on Drugs
The Organization of American States (OAS) is holding its annual general assembly meeting in Antigua, Guatemala and the War on Drugs will be Topic A.
According to the Los Angeles Times, several Latin American governments are expected to call on the United States to find “alternatives to what is seen as an approach to fighting drugs that leans heavily on law enforcement — a strategy that has cost tens of thousands of mostly Latin American lives.”
The hemispheric organization recently issued a report that urged governments to decriminalize some drug use. Latin American nations like Mexico, Honduras — and host nation Guatemala — have been battered by drug-related corruption and violence that has left thousands of civilians, soldiers and police dead.
While the OAS study calls for discussion on legalizing marijuana, it makes no specific proposals and found there is “no significant support” among the 35 OAS members for legalizing cocaine or other drugs, the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. delegation, headed by Secretary of State John Kerry, isn’t expected to accept the concept of decriminalizing marijuana use. At the Summit of the Americas last year, President Obama said he believed drug legalization was “not the answer” to the problem of drug-related violence and narco terrorism.
A senior State Department official in the U.S. delegation told reporters Tuesday (June 4) in a background briefing that Kerry “wants to contribute to a really good conversation” about counter narcotics strategy because “last year when this started, there was a lot of buzz about legalization, but there really wasn’t much behind it. There weren’t a whole lot of facts in that conversation.”
“No” to NATO
Colombia’s defense minister says the South American nation may sign a cooperation agreement on human rights, justice and troop training with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – but has not intention of joining NATO.
Juan Carolos Pinzon told a radio station that Colombia “cannot be a member, does not want to be a member of NATO.” His remarks came after President Juan Manuel Santos said his nation and NATO were going to sign an agreement “to start a whole process of reaching out, of cooperation, also with a look at entering that organization.”
That report caused an uproar among Colombia’s neighbors, especially leftist governments in Bolivia and Venezuela. But NATO officials, quoted by the AP said no membership deal is in the works. Colombia, which has been fighting a 60-year insurgency by leftist guerillas’ aligned with narcotics cartels, has been a key U.S. ally in the war on drugs.
Meeting in Brazil
Tom Kelly, the Acting U.S. Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs is in Brazil this week for the 2013 U.S.-Brazil Political Military Dialogue.
The meeting – which seeks to strengthen defense and security relations between the two countries comes in advance of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s visit to Washington with President Obama later this year.
Brazil, South America’s largest country by population and area, is also home to the continent’s largest economy. In recent years, Brazil has enlarged its military and military equipment – submarines, aircraft and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets – as part of a new security strategy to protect both its water resources in the Amazon and energy resources in the South Atlantic.
Last month, the former dictator of Guatemala was convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity in the Central American country. But just a few days later (May 21), the country’s highest court overturned the verdict. Because of a jurisdictional dispute in the case dating back to April 19, Reuters reported.
Efrain Rios Montt, 86, was convicted May 10 of overseeing the killings of more than 1,000 of the Maya Ixil population in the early 1980s. But the Constitutional Court threw out the verdict and ordered the proceeeding void going back to April 19 when a jurisdictional dispute arose after one of the presiding judges suspended the trial — because of a dispute with another judge over who should hear it.
It was unclear when the trial might restart.
Colombia is back in the news.
Vice President Joe Biden has announced that he is going to visit Colombia during a Latin America trip later this month. The trip, which is slated to begin the week of May 26, will include visits to Brazil and the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago.
“In Colombia, the vice president will meet with President [Juan Manuel] Santos to build on security relations and focus on ways to further the prosperity of our two countries,” the White House announced.
It was the latest development in the increasing cooperation between the United States and Colombia.
Last week, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with his Colombian counterpart – Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon – to discuss the security partnership between the two countries. Speaking later at the National Defense University’s Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies, Pinzon said ““Today, the average Colombian citizen lists street crime as a greater threat than terrorism.” Pinzón said, noting how far Colombia has come from the height of its nearly 50-year Marxist insurgency, when more than four terrorist attacks a day occurred.
For the last two decades the insurgency by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known by its Spanish acronym FARC, has been fueled by narcotics trafficking, according to the CIA.
At the height of the insurgency, 20-30 years ago, Colombia was “nearly a failed state,” Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly told a recent conference on transnational organized crime. But in the years since, said Kelly – the head of U.S. Southern Command – Colombia has done a “tremendous job” battling both the FARC and narcotics cartels — while reforming its military and legal system. “And they’ve done this almost entirely by themselves,” with relatively limited military assistance from the United States, Kelly said. “Once they stick a fork in the FARC, they’ll be even more effective in taking cocaine off the market,” Kelly told the gathering in Alexandria, Virginia, sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement.
At an earlier IDGA conference on countering-improvised explosives devices, one speaker was a Colombian Army officer who described the skill in dealing with booby traps and roadside bombs that his military has developed during almost 50 years battling a Marxist insurgency. Colombia is considered second only to Afghanistan for the number IED attacks within its borders.
Meanwhile, a panel of Latin American experts on Colombia’s counter insurgency opined that the “military-centered approach has been good but not sufficient enough” to deal with problems within its borders and across the region. In a March panel discussion at George Washington University, experts from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Strategic Studies Institute and the National Defense University, cited the need for politicians and bureaucrats to show a governmental presence in rural areas once controlled by the rebels, the need for the military to coordinate operations with analysis of how FARC had changed tactics and areas of operation; and provide security and stability while dealing with new types of battlefields. Here’s a Synopsis
Big Boat, With Friend
The High-Speed Vessel Swift (HSV-2) got underway in Key West, Florida recently (April 24) with a tethered Aerostat balloon. The crew of the Swift will conduct a series of capabilities tests to determine if the aerostat, TIF-25K — a lighter than air unmanned air vehicle– could participate in U.S. Southern Command’s Operation Martillo.
Aerostats are like blimps but instead of cruising in the air, they are tethered to one spot. They can be used for persistent coastal surveillance when equipped with up to 420 pounds of sensors and other surveillance equipment.
That is a joint, interagency and multinational effort to block transnational criminal organizations from using air or maritime access to the littoral (coastal) regions of the Central America.
Organized Crime Spreads
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia — The head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) accepts the fact that he’ll be dealing with continued budget cuts into the forseeable future, but U.S. Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly says if he only had “13 or 14″ Coast Guard or Navy vessels to station off the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Central America, he could dramatically reduce the cocaine traffic coming into the United States.
Kelly, who took over as head of SOUTHCOM last Fall, says the key to hurting the multi-billion dollar drug trade in the Western Hemisphere is interdiction at sea — before the drugs make it ashore. At a conference on countering transnational organized crime, Kelly discussed the network running up from South America through Mexico that brings cocaine, heroin, illegal immigrants and enslaved sex workers into the United States.
He also talked about a surprising Central American ally in the war on drugs. To read more of this story go to Seapower magazine’s website.
Transnational Crime in Africa, Latin America
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.
In the days since the March 5 death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, security analysts have speculated on whether regime change in Caracas will have any effect on transnational narcotics cartels operating in Latin America.
Since 1999, when Chavez began his 14-year rule, Venezuela has been considered a major hub for the shipment of illegal narcotics from neighboring Colombia to the United States and Europe. The U.S. Treasury Department has added several high-level Venezuelan military and intelligence officials to its Foreign Narcotics Kingpin list, for alleged “material assistance” to the Colombian rebel group known as FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) which Washington has labeled a “narco-terrorist organization.”
In the last decade, the battle against transnational criminal organizations has stretched from Central and South America across the Atlantic to West Africa and beyond. Officials say drug trafficking is destablizing, promotes corruption and other illegal activity including human trafficking and piracy. Increasingly, U.S. and other militaries are helping local and national law enforcement agencies with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to battle criminal cartels.
By law, the U.S. Defense Department is the lead agency for the detection and monitoring of aerial and maritime transit of illegal drugs, although federal law also limits the military’s assistance in U.S. territory to civil support. However, the Coast Guard, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, has dual military and law enforcement authority.
But as authorities increase pressure on them in the Western Hemisphere, narco-cartels have been turning to Africa, especially the politically unstable countries of West Africa, to use as transit points for Europe-bound illicit drug shipments.
A United Nations report released Feb. 25 listed the growing influence of narco-cartels both foreign and home-grown in West Africa. Cocaine trafficking remains the most lucrative criminal activity of international groups operating in the region, but one “worrying development” is the emergence of methamphetamine production and related trafficking, according to the report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The report also discussed human trafficking between West Africa and Europe and arms trafficking across Africa.
Top government officials from the United States and other countries are slated to discuss the toll of trafficking in drugs, guns and humans at the Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference in Alexandria, Va. next month. To read the whole story, visit the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement site (http://www.idga.org) or click here.
Brazil: May Buy Russian Air Defense System
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
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
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.
A New Gold Rush
As it raises its defense spending as part of a strategy to secure its borders and offshore oil deposits, Brazil has become a big draw for foreign defense contractors like BAE Systems, Eurocopter, Boeing, Saab and Dassault, according to the Financial Times.
Brazil is building a fleet of five submarines — one of them nuclear-powered — with French contractor DCNS. And aircraft from France (Dassault’s Rafale), the United States (Boeing’s F/A-18 Super Hornet) and Sweden (Saab’s JAS-39 Gripen) are all vying for Brazil’s much delayed selection of a contractor to build a new fleet of more than 30 multi-role jet fighters.
Brazil is Latin America’s largest country and the sixth-largest economy in the world.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ranks Brazil 10th in military spending in 2011 — up from 11th in 2010. Brazil’s military budget was $35.4 billion, SIPRI calculated, or 1.5 percent of Brazil’s gross domestic product. it’s defense spending has risen 19 percent since 2002, even though it dropped 8.2 percent from 2010 to 2011.
Overall, Latin America’s defense spending dropped 3.3 percent in 2011. It was up 5.1 percent in 2010. The biggest increase was Mexico’s: up 5.7 percent in 2011 and up by 52 percent since 2002 — largely due to increased military involvement in the country’s war with drug cartels, SIPRI said in an April 2012 report.
Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer S.A. has signed an agreement with Anglo-Italian helicopter manufacturer AgustaWestland establishing a joint venture to explore producing helicopters in Brazil, both companies announced recently.
Preliminary studies by Embraer and AgustaWestland indicate strong market potential for twin engine, medium lift helicopters — especially to meet the needs of the of the offshore oil and gas market. Other key market sectors, such as the military, “show promising potential as well,” the companies said.
TAMPA, Florida – The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to leverage the resources of several top universities to create its own “think outside the box” research entity to tackle overseas threats that can ignite conflict in struggling regions – like food and water shortages, infectious disease and rapid urbanization.
By 2050, the world’s population will have grown by two billion to nine billion people, straining food and water resources – especially in the developing world, Beth Cole, director of USAID’s Office of Military Cooperation told a Special Operations conference here in Tampa this week.
“We realize that if we want to get ahead of the curve, we’ve got to look out to the future and one of the ways we’re going to [do it] is create a DARPA-like entity in USAID,” she said, referring to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency – the Pentagon’s high risk research arm that has achieved several high return successes like stealth technology and the Internet.
Last month, USAID announced it was launching the Higher Education Solutions Network (HESN), a partnership with seven American and foreign universities designed as scientific problem solvers for global development challenges.
According to USAID, the network was created to tap research institutions and their students to: catalyze global action; support entrepreneurship and foster multifaceted approaches to development. Each university will establish Development Labs to work with USAID’s field mission experts and Washington staff to apply science and technology to solve key problems in areas such as global health, food security and chronic conflict. To get the labs going, USAID is providing a total of $26 million to the seven institutions: MIT, the University of California-Berkeley, Michigan State, Duke, Texas A&M University, the College of William and Mary and Uganda’s Makerere University.
Cole enumerated some of the global challenges that will soon confront the world and the organizations trained to keep it safe and peaceful.
Nearly two billion people around the world don’t have access to clean drinking water. Globally, there’s been a 10 percent rise in water-caused disease. The World Health Organization recorded 1,100 epidemics in the last year – many of them spread by animals. “I want you to think about chickens in large cities,” Cole said, noting that the developing world – where economic and educational disparities, food shortages and disease have fueled violent extremist movements – is fast becoming an urban world.
She noted that 75 percent of the world’s largest cities are in the developing world – many of them in the littoral areas close to the sea. The populations of Nigeria and Pakistan “two fragile, conflict-affected states – one of them with nuclear weapons” are projected to grow 30 percent in the near future.
“How are you going to deal with security in teeming cities affected by one of these challenges,” Cole asked attendees at the Special Operations Summit sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement (IDGA).
She noted USAID and U.S. Special Operations Command (which oversees Green Berets, Army Rangers, Navy SEALS, Nightstalker helicopter pilots and other special operations personnel) have been cooperating for years in places like Afghanistan to improve security and economic conditions.