Posts tagged ‘Latin America’
SETBACKS AT SEA.
USS Frolic Captured
The USS Frolic, is one of three new American sloops-of-war, when she first put to sea on February 18, 1814. The other two are the USS Peacock and the US Wasp. During a cruise of the West Indies, between March 29 and April 3, Frolic sinks two British merchant ships and a South American privateer preying on ships of all nations in the Caribbean.
On April 20, 1814 Frolic encounters the British 36-gun frigate HMS Orpheus and the 12-gun schooner HMS Shelburne in the Florida Strait. Frolic tries to outrun the two warships – cutting away an anchor and dumping some of her cannons over the side — but after a six-hour chase, the Orpheus and Shelburne catch up off the coast of Cuba and take Frolic for a prize. The British rename the Frolic the Florida and press her into His Majesty’s Service.
Note: The USS Frolic was named for the HMS Frolic, which lost a seabattle with another Aerican ship named the USS Wasp in 1812. Shortly after that action, more British ships appeared on the scene and captured the Wasp and re-took the badly damaged Frolic as well.
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Starting on April 25, 1814 the Royal Navy begins extending its blockade of U.S. ports up into the waters off New England. The British began the blockade in November 1812 when they post ships to discourage merchantmen and warships from leaving port. The blockade is extended from Long Island to the mouth of the Mississippi River by the middle of 1813.
The British blockade bottles up ships in port, causes economic hardship, drives up prices and — perhaps most importantly — deprives the federal government of much-needed revenue at a time when Congress ddoesn’t want to raise taxes to pay for a larger Army and more ships for the Navy. Federalists oppose the war as bad for business and don’t want to fund it, while the Jeffersonian “War Hawks” from the South and West, think the war will be short won’t need much money. They oppose restoring taxes eliminated during Thomas Jefferson’s administration, according to George Daughan in “1812, The Navy’s War.”
While several U.S. warships like the USS Constitution and USS Essex are able to elude the blockade and wreak havoc on the open seas, the collapse of Napoleon’s empire frees up more British ships for blockade duty — making it increasingly hard for merchantmen and even Navy ships to make their way out to sea. In 1813, the frigate USS Chesapeake was captured by the HMS Shannon when it tries to sail out of Boston Harbor. Other U.S. frigates are trapped in rivers of Connecticut and Virginia.
The British initially spare the maritime economy of New England from blockade for two primary reasons: First they needed the food and other supplies the Yankees were shipping them from Boston, Portsmouth and other New England ports. Secondly, they know the Federalists opposed the war to begin with and anything that can drive a political wedge between New England and the rest of the country will help Britain’s war effort.
But with more ships available, extending the blockade and squeezing New England merchants, ship owners and seamen seems a quicker strategy. Late in the war, New Englanders will meet in Hartford, Connecticut to consider a solution — possibly even secession from the union.
A Green Beret with 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) provides security as members of the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force travel to their target on Chacachacare Island, located on western-most island off of Trinidad.
The boat assault was part of an exercise that ended February 14 in the Caribbean nation. The month-long Joint Combined Exchange Training session tested skills like marksmanship, equipment maintenance, rappelling, fast-roping, and other tactical maneuvers focusing on drug interdiction in support of Special Operations Command South.
The U.S.S. Constitution, a three-masted heavy frigate, has been prowling the Caribbean Sea since New Year’s Eve, looking to intercept British shipping and commerce.
The Pictou, is escorting the armed merchant the Lovely Ann from Bermuda to Suriname, when it is spotted by the Constitution under the command of Captain Charles Stewart. The American warship captured the Lovely Ann, taking her for a prize and then fired on Pictou.
The 54-gun Constitution stopped Pictou with a shot through her sails, capturing the smaller British vessel. Stewart decides to keep the Lovely Ann but orders the Pictou destroyed. The Pictou was one of five British warships captured or destroyed by the Constitution during the War of 1812. In addition to Pictou, they were HMS Guerriere, Java, Cyane and Levant.
On this Caribbean cruise, Stewart and Constitution captured five British merchant ships and Pictou before problems with the main mast force the captain to take Old Ironsides back to port.
Constitution, one of the six original frigates authorized by Congress in 1794, remains in service today – the oldest, still functioning warship in the world. The other frigates, that formed the backbone of the U.S. Navy were: President, United States, Constellation, Chesapeake and Congress.
The Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, and other leaders of the U.S. Intelligence community, known in Washington as the IC, were up on Capitol Hill this week to present their assessment of the global and regional threats facing the country.
But Clapper’s less-than-honest testimony before Congress last year about cell phone data collection seemed to gather most – but not all – of the news media attention – along with his continuing concerns about the disclosures of rogue National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
So 4GWAR would like to focus on the range of threats the IC – which includes the Office of National Intelligence, the NSA, CIA, FBI, NSA, Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Counterterrorism Center – believes are facing the United States as of January 15, 2014 (when their assessment report was completed).
Global threats listed by the 31-page public report include cyber attacks by hostile nations like Iran and North Korea, terrorist organizations and criminals; homegrown and international terrorist plots by groups like al-Qaeda branches like al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula; transnational organized criminal groups like the Mexican drug cartels that are expanding their influence across the Atlantic Ocean to West and North Africa.
“Competition for and secure access to natural resources (like food, water and energy) are growing security threats,” the report states. Risks to freshwater supplies are a growing threat to economic development in North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia and that could have a destabilizing effect not only on local economies but on governments and political institutions in many places where democracy is fragile or non-existent.
As polar ice recedes in the Arctic, “economic and security concerns will increase competition over access to sea routes and natural resources,” according to the report. Vast deposits of oil and natural gas – as much as 15 percent of the world’s undiscovered petroleum and 30 percent of its natural gas may lie beneath Arctic waters where the ice is receding more and more each year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The report predicts Sub-Saharan Africa will “almost certainly see political and related security turmoil in 2014.” The continent has become “a hothouse for the emergence of extremist and rebel groups,” threatening governments in Chad, Niger, Mali and Mauritania.
The report also notes the attacks in Somalia and East Africa by the extremist Islamic al-Shabaab movement as well as sharp ethnic/religious/economic divides that are causing death, destruction, starvation and and mass migration in Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
4GWAR will have more on this report this weekend.
Soldiers vs Vigilantes vs Drug Gangs
The Mexican government’s attempts to quell violence between vigilantes battling drug gangs in the southwesterrn state of Michoacan have turned deadly in a confrontation between the military and civilians.
There are contradictory reports on the number of casualties in the town of Antunez where soldiers were reported to have opened fire early Tuesday (January 14) on an unarmed crowd blocking the street. The Associated Press is reporting that its reporters saw the bodies two men said to have died in the incident. AP journalists said they also spoke with the family of a third man reportedly killed in the same incident.
The Los Angeles Times reported that 12 people were said to have died in the clash, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma. The self-defense groups began organizing last year to protect local people from the drug gang known as the Knights Templar, who were extorting and otherwise terrorizing residents of Tierra Caliente, an important farming region west of Mexico City.
Local citizens said they had to arm themselves because federal troops failed to guarantee their security. On Monday (January 13) Mexico’s interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, urged the vigilantes to lay down their arms, the BBC reported.
The Knights Templar, who control much of the methamphetamine trade to the United States, say the vigilantes have sided with a rival gang, the New Generation cartel. But the self-defense groups fiercely deny that.
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Ecuador’s First Drone
Ecuador has developed its first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa revealed the country’s first drone on local television Saturday (January 11), according to the Russian television network, RT (Russia Today).
The drone, called the UAV-Gavilan (Spanish for hawk), cost half a million dollars, a significant savings for Ecuador — which, 2007 paid $20 million for six Israeli-made UAVs, according to the Associated Press.
The gasoline-powered, carbon fiber and wood UAV was designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force to help the country, which borders both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, fight drug trafficking, Correa said. He added that the Gavilan tracked a ship loaded with drugs for six hours before authorities intercepted the vessel.
Its video cameras and sensors will help the Euadorian Air Force monitor the country’s borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as assisting investigations. Ecuador plans to produce four of the UAVs for itself and then sell others to interested countries in Latin America.
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FARC Ends Ceasefire
Colombia’s Marxist rebels announced Wednesday (January 15) that they were ending their unilateral holiday ceasefire with government forces.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — widely known by their Spanish acronym FARC –announced in Havana, Cuba, where it has been in peace negotiations with the government that it was ending the ceasefire it declared December 15, Reuters reported.
The rebels, who have battled the government in Bogota for five decades, accused government armed forces and police units of pursuing “aggressions and provocations.”s
theThe FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared a one-month ceasefire on December 15 and said in a statement issued on Wednesday, “we lived up to our word… despite permanent aggressions and provocations by the government’s armed forces and police units.”
While the FARC has repeatedly called for both sides to end hostilities, President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to agree. The rebels previously observed another unilateral cease-fire that lasted two months, the Associated Press reported.
The FARC has been fighting the government in a brutal guerrilla war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in jungle and urban attacks. The revolt began as a peasant movement seeking land reform but in recent years the FARC — branded a terrorist organization by the United States — is reported to have aligned itself with Colombian drug cartels, obtaining much of its funding through narcotics sales. The FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army — estimated to number 8,000 — in the Western Hemisphere..
Shooting at LAX
A shooting at an airport security checkpoint in Lose Angeles has left one Transportation Security Agency (TSA) officer dead, wounded two other TSA agents and a bystander, according to the Los Angeles Times and other news outlets.
Panic and hysteria spread through Los Angeles Airport’s (LAX) Terminal 3 Friday (October 31) following gunfire that killed 39-year-old Gerardo Hernandez. He was the first TSA employee killed in the line of duty since the agency was created shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
Police chased down and shot the suspected gunman in the leg and head. He is being treated for his injuries at an area hospital. He was identified as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, originally from New Jersey. Authorities are still trying to determine why Ciancia pulled a semi-automatic rifle in the security lane and began shooting.
Federal authorities charged him with murder of a federal officer and committing violance at an international airport. Both crimes are punishable by a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole or the death penalty, the New York Times reported.
The incident disrupted air travel at the nation’s third busiest airport for hours. The disruptions had a ripple effect across the United States and elsewhere around the world as police searched the airport to make sure the gunman had no accomplices or had left booby traps in the busy transportation hub.
Authotrities said Ciancia had no apparent links to any terrorist group but the attack underscored the threat posed by a lone wolf gunman – whatever the motive.
Drug Gang’s Super Tunnel
U.S. officials in California have uncovered a tunnel running under the U.S.-Mexico border from Tijuana to San Diego – packed with marijuana and cocaine.
The tunnel stretched for the length of six football fields end-to-end and had lighing, ventilation and an electric rail system, officials said. The tunnel, which authorities described as a “Super Tunnel” was 35 feet below the surface, four feet tall and three feet wide. U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy told reporters it was built by Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, CNN reported.
Three people are in custody charged with drug trafficking. If convicted they face mandatory minimum sentences of 10 years in prison, according to Reuters.
Members of the San Diego Tunnel Task Force — numerous tunnels for smuggling people, drugs and weapons have been discovered between the United States and Mexico in recent years – found the subterranean passageway Wednesday (October 27) night in the course of a long-term investigation, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Authorities also seized about 325 pounds of cocaine along with more than eight tons of marijuana associated with the would-be operators of the tunnel, San Diego TV Station XETV reported.
It was the eighth large-scale smuggling tunnel discovered in the San Diego area since 2006, according to ICE. In total, federal authorities have detected more than 75 such tunnels in the last five years, mostly in California and Arizona.
LATIN AMERICA: Fallout from NSA Intel Revelations, Brazil-Argentina Cyber Pact, Colombian Drug Ring Busted
Relations have been strained between the United States and Brazil since disclosures by a rogue contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA) revealed widespread spying by the U.S. on Brazil.
Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, was said to be furious over the revelations that the NSA had been conducting widespread spying on her, her top advisers and Brazil’s largest oil company — Petrobras. . Brasilia has demanded a full explanation from Washington and Rousseff has postponed her planned state visit to Washington, scheduled for late October, according to the New York Times, which called the decision a “sharp rebuke to the Obama administration.
Rousseff’s move was seen as a stunning diplomatic setback for the United States which has been trying to improve relations with South America’s largest country and biggest economy after a shaky relationship with her predecessor and mentor, Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva, according to AFP. The Brazilian president has called the spying “an illegal act” and a violation of Brazilian sovereignty.
Brazil-Argentina Cyber Defense Pact
How bad are relations between Brazil and the United States over disclosures that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has collected data on billions of phone and email conversations in Brazil — including President Dilma Rousseff’s personal communications? Pretty bad.
Not only has Rousseff postponed a long-planned state visit to Washington, but Brazil has agreed to a cyber defense pact with Argentina, according to Press TV reports.
The agreement was reached following Brazilian Defense Minister Celso Amorim’s recent meeting with his Argentine counterpart, Agustin Rossi in Buenos as Aires. The military agreement commits Brazil to train Argentina’s military in cyber defense starting in 2014.
Police in Colombia have captured 16 drug dealers that were paert of a ring that grows and distributes marijuana through small convenience in the country’s major cities, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
Four of the suspects were caught ransporting 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds) of marijuana by truck” in Bogota,” according to the national police.
The police said the drug ring paid a “gram tax” on marijuana to the country’s largest armed rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The Colombian government has accused the FASRC of involvement in drug trafficking — as has the United States. The rebels deny the charge. The FARC and the government are currently holding peace talks in Havana, Cuba, to put an end to five decades of fighting.
Both sides ended their 14th round of negotiations Thursday (September 19), issuing a joint statement saying they had made progress, according to Reuters.
The statement said the parties “continue advancing in developing and writing up accords … around the second point of the agenda on political participation,” including rights and guarantees for the exercise of political opposition, Reuters said. But the FARC accused the government of trying to impose unilaterally the conditions on any future peace agreement.
The government in Bogota wants a peace accord by November when the national electoral cycle starts. But both sides say that deadline won’t be met and may complicate the presidential vote in May 2014.
LATIN AMERICA: Colombia Defense Industry, Ecuador Border Clash, Cocoa Growing Down, Kerry to Visit Brazil, Colombia
Colombia Defense Industry
After decades of a brutal insurgency by Marxist rebels and equally violent battles with narcotics cartels, Colombia is looking to regenerate and expand its defense industries, according to UPI.
Quoting the Bogota-based newspaper, El Espectador, UPI reports that South Korean defense company LIG Nex1 said it will help Colombia’s armed forces develop sonars and radars for the country’s defense sector. Colombia recently bought 16 missiles from LIGNex1 to be deployed on four Colombian Navy vessels, according to the newspaper.
LIG Nex1 will work with the Colombian defense industry installations in Villavicencio in central Colombia to develop projects to design, develop, manufacture, assemble, integrate and test the operation of sensors, UPI reported.
Colombia has long had close ties with the U.S. military — especially in battling illegal drugs and improvised explosive device technology. But according to the Colombian business magazine, Dinero, South Korean corporations — like LIGNex1′s parent, LG Group — have been increasing investments in Colombia from $30 million in 2007 to $160 million last year. However, the magazine also notes Brazil, Chile and Mexico do much more export and import business with South Korea than Colombia.
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Colombia-Ecuador Border Clash
An Ecuadorean soldier was killed and another wounded in a firefight with guerillas at the border with Colombia. A Colombian army general identified the shooters on the Colombian side of the border as members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the Spanish acronym, FARC.
FARC, has waged a violent insurgency against the government in Bogota since the 1960s that has claimed thousands of lives. FARC guerillas often seek refuge in Ecuador’s forests when being pursued by Colombian troops. here have been clashes in the past between the rebels and Ecuador’s army, but this was the first known instance of an Ecuadorean soldier being killed in a clash with a Colombian irregular, the Associated Press reported.
Ecuador’s top military leader said the two-hour firefight errupted when his troops surrounded FARC rebels on Ecuador’s side of the San Miguel River, which separates the country from a cocaine producing region of Colombia. Colombian authorities say many FARC units finance themselves through cocaine trafficking.
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Colombia Cocoa Production
Cocoa growing in Colombia — the world’s biggest cocaine producer — fell by 25 percent in 2012, according to a United Nations report.
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said farmland under cocoa cultivation shrank from 64,000 hectares (xx acres) last year from 135,000 hectares in 2011. A survey jointly conducted by Colombia’s government and UNODC shows that coca bush cultivation affected 23 of the country’s 32 departments; decreased in 17 departments; increased in the 3 departments of Norte de Santander, Caquetá and Chocó; and remained unchanged in the remaining 3.
Bo Mathiasen, UNODC representative in Colombia, said government efforts to eradicate the illicit coca crop were having a visible impact but that farmers often simply replant bushes in new or previously cleared fields, Reuters reported.
Peru, Colombia and Bolivia are the world’s biggest coca producers. (See story below)
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Bolivian Cocoa Down, Too
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime says cocoa cultivation is down again in Bolivia for the second year in a row.
Bolivia’s coca production dropped by 7 percent from 2011 to 2012, according to the UN report. This follows an 11 percent reduction from the year before, according to analysis by InSight Crime and reported in the Christian Science Monitor.
The biggest drop came in the largest coca growing region of the country known as Yungas de la Paz, which went from 18,200 hectares to 16,900 hectares, according to the UNODC. The agency says that two major factors played a role in the drop: 1) the government’s efforts to “eradicate/rationalize” the size of the fields and 2) the drop in yield due to the long periods in which the fields have been cultivated.
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Kerry to Colombia, Brazil
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is slated to travel to Colombia and Brazil next week (August 12-13) to improve “cooperation and dialogue with important regional partners,” according to the State Department.
Kerry will visit Bogota, Colombia, on August 12. From Bogota, he will travel to Brasilia, Brazil, where he will spend the day on August 13.
The leader of the notorious Mexican drug gang, the Zetas, has been captured by the Mexican military near the border with Texas, officials announced late Monday (July 15).
Miguel Trevino Morales was wanted by Mexican and U.S.. authorities. Both countries posted multi-million dollar rewards for him. Known as Z-40, he was captured by Mexican Marines using a helicopter, who intercepted him in a pickup truck outside the border city of Nuevo Laredo, according to the Associated Press. Morales and two others, believed to be an accountant and a bodyguard, were taken into custody along with $2 million in cash and eight guns.
Trevino Morales is the highest-ranking crime boss taken down since President Eneique Pena Nieto took office in December, according to the BBC. More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006.
Pena Nieto promised to change the policy of the previous government by tackling cartels through law enforcement on a local level rather than the capture of big-name targets. His predecessor, Felipe Calderon, had deployed the army across the country and pursued cartel leaders. That policy eliminated many senior criminal figures, but it also created power vacuums that helped fuel the violence.
The Zetas have been linked to some of the most violent crimes in Mexico’s battle with drug cartels, including massacres of immigrants passing through Mexico on their way to the United States and a casino fire that killed 52 people in Monterrey in 2011.
The Zetas originally were deserters from Mexico’s special operations forces hired as bodyguards and enforcers by the Gulf Cartel. But they split off to form their own gang in 2007 and have terrified Mexico –especially along the U.S. border — with unbelievable violence and brutality – including torture, beheadings and massacres, the Los Angeles Times reported.
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.