Posts filed under ‘Latin America’
Trump Seeks Defense Budget Boost.
President Donald Trump unveiled his fiscal 2018 spending plan Thursday (March 16) which sets the framework for a final budget request to Congress. If passed, the funding request would sharply increase military and homeland security spending while cutting the budgets of dozens of federal agencies and programs — including the State, Justice and Transportation departments.
In the wake of Trump’s so-called “skinny” budget, which will likely go through numerous amendments and changes before being voted upon by Congress, the Pentagon released a broad wish list on Thursday, which, the New York Times noted, signals what the Defense Department “would do with its proposed $54 billion windfall, filling its shopping cart with desires including Apache helicopters for the Army, anti-submarine planes for the Navy, fighter jets and more training for selected personnel.” The budget proposal calls for $639 billion in defense spending, up $52 billion from last year’s budget request. It also seeks another $2 billion for national security programs in other agencies, like safety oversight of nuclear weaponry by the Energy Department.
According to Politico’s Morning Defense, “The Trump White House is touting a boost in military spending as a major element of what it calls a ‘hard-power’ budget proposal as it seeks to win over hawkish Republicans who are pushing for an even bigger increase in investments in the military. However, GOP defense hawks have criticized the administration’s claim that its proposed defense expansion is “one of the largest in history,” noting the Trump plan is only a 3 percent increase above the Obama administration’s projection for next year, POLITICO reported.
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Brazil Budget Battle.
Trump isn’t the only leader in the Americas planning to boost defense spending while cutting spending elsewhere in the budget.
Brazilian President Michel Temer is increasing the country’s military budget by 36 percent, local media reported Monday (March 13). The defense hike comes just months after Temer pushed the approval of a controversial constitutional amendment to freeze public spending for the next two decades, according to the Venezuela-based news site, teleSUR.
Citing a report by Brazilian newspaper, Folha de Sao Paulo, teleSUR said data compiled by Brazil’s Senate indicated military spending for this year is set to hit nearly $3.1 billion. The changes come after Brazil’s military budget was slashed under former President Dilma Rousseff’s government. In 2015, the finance minister at the time, Joaquim Levy, drastically reduced investment in the defense sector. From the US$ 3.8 billion expected to be spent in the area, it only allocated $2.1 billion, according to Senate data.
Temer’s move to increase military spending also comes after the approval of a constitutional amendment to freeze public spending for two decades. The reform ties any increase to social assistance programs to the previous year’s inflation rate, rather than GDP. This will effectively limit what all future governments can spend on health, education and social welfare for at least 20 years, according to teleSUR.
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Australian Drone Program
California-based unmanned aircraft maker General Atomics has launched its Team Reaper Australia group to meet the Australian military’s search for a new drone, according to C4ISRNET.
Turkey Defense Procurement
A Turkish government report on defense procurement for the next five years urges the input of domestic industry to become a global player.
The 124-page Strategic Plan for 2017-2021 was prepared by Turkey’s defense procurement agency, the Undersecretariat for Defence Industries. Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik defines the plan’s goal as making the Turkish industry “a global player with technological superiority,” Defense News reports.
Trump Picks Retired Marine General.
President-elect Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Corps General John Kelly to be the next head of the Department of Homeland Security, according to several news outlets.
General Kelly, 66, who until recently led United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), had a 40-year career in the Marine Corps, and led troops in intense combat in western Iraq, according to the New York Times. Kelly has not yet formally offered the job to General Kelly, in part because the general is out of the country this week, a person briefed on the decision told the Times. The president-elect plans to roll out the Homeland Security Department appointment next week, along with his remaining national security positions — including secretary of state.
Kelly is not expected to face difficulty winning Senate confirmation. Trump’s team was drawn to him because of his Southwest border expertise, people familiar with the transition told the Washington Post. Like the president-elect, Kelly has sounded the alarm about drugs, terrorism and other cross-border threats that he sees as emanating from Mexico and Central and South America.
Based in Miami, Florida, SOUTHCOM has military responsibilities for Latin America and the Caribbean Basin — 32 countries in all. Those responsibilities include organizing training exercises with local militaries in the region as well as good will/humanitarian aid missions. One of SOUTHCOM’s most demanding missions is counter narcotics.
Before taking over at SOUTHCOM in 2012, Kelly served as senior military adviser to then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta starting in 2011. Trump’s selection of Kelly for DHS was first reported by CBS News.
Kelly, who retired from the SOUTHCOM post earlier this year, publicly clashed with the Obama administration on its plans – which were never executed – to close Guantanamo Bay and dismissed as “foolishness” concerns that the military’s treatment of detainees at the facility had cost the U.S. the moral high ground in the War on Terror, POLITICO reported.
Kelly is the latest in a string of former military figures to be nominated for positions in the incoming Trump administration. Trump has also nominated retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn as national security advisor and retired Marine Corps General James Mattis as defense secretary. Retired Army general and former Central Intelligence Agency chief David Petraeus is said to be among those under consideration for secretary of state, the Voice of America website reported.
Pancho Villa’s Raid.
A hundred years ago today the tiny border town of Columbus, New Mexico was reeling and the rest of the country was howling for revenge following a bloody cross border raid by hundreds of Mexican irregulars commanded by bandit-turned general and Mexican Revolution hero “Pancho” Villa.
In the early morning hours of March 9, 1916, about 500 mounted gunmen loyal to Villa attacked Columbus — three miles north of the border — and the adjoining U.S. Army base, Camp Furlong.
Part of the town was looted and burned and at least 17 Americans — both civilians and soldiers — were killed in the three-hour attack. More than 100 Villistas were also killed, wounded or captured on the streets of Columbus and on their retreat back to Mexico by pursuing U.S. cavalry troopers.
The Columbus raid prompted President Woodrow Wilson to send a punitive force of cavalry, infantry and artillery — eventually numbering more than 10,000 men — plus trucks and airplanes (deployed by the Army for the first time in a conflict zone) to catch and punish Villa’s irregular forces.
Crossing into Mexico on March 15, under the command of Brigadier General John J. Pershing, the U.S. troops — including the celebrated Buffalo Soldiers of the black 10th Cavalry regiment — pushed hundreds of miles over rugged terrain deep into the Mexican state of Chihuahua searching for Villa.
Within two months they killed or wounded scores of Villistas in several gun battles. But after two skirmishes with Mexican government troops nearly brought both nations to the brink of war, Pershing’s force returned to U.S. territory in February 1917. Just two months later the United States was at war with Germany.
We’ll be following the major events of this unusual U.S. military action over the next few months, and looking for parallels to the current border security crisis.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Zika Virus Worries.
(World map showing where active transmission of the Zika virus have been reported, mostly in Central and South America. Map: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
The World Health Organization says the Zika virus — which may be linked to birth defects — is spreading explosively in the Americas and may infect as many as four million people by the end of the year.
The global health agency says it will convene a special meeting on Monday (February 1) to decide whether to declare a public health emergency. The W.H.O. is moving swiftly to combat this outbreak after widespread criticism that it had allowed the last major global health crisis, Ebola, to fester without a coordinated, effective strategy, the New York Times reported Thursday (January 28).
At a briefing in Switzerland, Dr. Margaret Chan, the W.H.O.’s director-general, said Zika cases have been reported in 23 countries and territories in the region. “The level of alarm is extremely high,” she said Thursday.
Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon, according to the CDC.
The outbreak in Brazil, where the first infection was reported, has led to reports of Guillain-Barre syndrome and pregnant women giving birth to babies with birth defects and poor pregnancy outcomes.
The W.H.O. says a “causal relationship” between Zika virus infection and birth malformations and neurological syndromes has not yet been established, but is strongly suspected.
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Brazil Deploys Army.
(Aedes aegypti mosquito, one of the transmitters of Zika virus. Photo by Rafaelgilo, via Wikipedia)
In Brazil, where the Zika outbreak has hit hardest, soldiers are being deployed to combat mosquitos, which transmit the disease.
The government says it will deploy 220,000 soldiers who will go from home to home handing out leaflets on how to avoid the spread of Zika, which has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains, the BBC reported.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel alert on January 15 advising pregnant women to consider delaying travel to affected areas to avoid the possibility of being infected, according to NBC.
In the Central American country of El Salvador, the government has taken the drastic step of urging women to refrain from becoming pregnant until 2018
For more about Zika virus, click here.
Guarding the Rainforest.
Illegal logging in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is down — thanks largely to armed militias of indigenous peoples guarding their reserves, which make up about a fifth of the Amazon region.
Armed with shotguns and other assorted weaponry, these ragtag guardians have stopped illegal loggers, tied them up, torched their trucks and tractors and chased them off, the Washington Post reports in a front page story Wednesday (October 7).
As a result, such logging has sharply declined in these territories. But the indigenous groups have faced reprisal attacks and death threats for their actions, raising fears of more violence in an area known for its lawlessness, according to the Post. In a rare visit to the reserves permitted by the indigenous tribes, Washington Post journalists found that many residents support the militias. But others are uneasy about relying on informal armed groups to resolve a problem that should fall to the Brazilian government.
The clashes highlight the continuing grave threat to the Amazon, the world’s biggest remaining rain forest, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the world’s climate and biodiversity. From 2005 to 2012, deforestation plunged in Brazil, as the government increased its conservation efforts and cracked down on illegal loggers. But since then, the numbers have begun to creep up again. In 2014 alone, almost 2,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest were cleared by farmers, loggers and others the Post said.
The Brazilian government sees the rain forest and the waters of the Amazon as key natural resources that needs to be guarded as much as oil reserves off the Atlantic Coast of Brazil
A 2014 report by the World Resource Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that rural communities and indigenous peoples across the world have government-recognized rights to forests containing 37.7 billion tons of carbon—equivalent to 29 times the annual emissions from all passenger vehicles in the world. In total, deforestation and other land uses represents 11 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
In Brazil alone, the report stated, strong legal rights could contribute to preventing 27.2 million hectares of deforestation by 2050, translating to 12 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions that don’t get into the atmosphere. That’s the same as about three years’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions from all Latin American and Caribbean countries.
President Dilma Rousseff has promised to reduce illegal logging in the Amazon by 2030. She and President Obama in a visit to Washington over the summer, have agreed to work more closely on curbing deforestation of the Amazon and boosting renewable energy.
Meanwhile, a Brazilian audit court has ruled that Rousseff broke the law in managing last year’s budget, according to the BBC.
The government was accused of borrowing money illegally from state banks to make up for budget shortfalls. The opposition says the court’s ruling – which reports to Brazil’s Congress – paves the way for impeachment proceedings against Ms. Rousseff, the BBC said. She was re-elected less than a year ago but has record low popularity ratings, according to the BBC. The Brazilian government says it would challenge Wednesday’s ruling in the Supreme Court
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Bringing Back Police.
The United Nations’ top human rights official wants the Mexican government to set a timetable for replacing military personnel in law enforcement duties with well-trained police.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said Wednesday (October 7) that the government should return soldiers to their barracks because military forces aren’t designed to do police work, the Associated Press reported.
Mexican soldiers and marines began leading the fight against cartels after many police units proved too corrupt or inefficient to take them on. Zeid was scathing in his assessment of how Mexico’s police, judicial and investigative system have failed Mexicans, leading to 26,000 disappearances and thousands of killings that remain unsolved, the AP said.
Zeid said Mexico’s defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos, told him the army doesn’t desire a policing role. But Zeid added that better police forces have to be trained before Mexico’s army withdraws or the military will leave a vacuum.
The Mighty Jungle.
The Chinese military has requested assistance from the Brazilian Army in developing jungle warfare training for the People’s Liberation Army, according to officials in Brazil.
Colonel Alcimar Marques de Araújo Martins, commander of Brazil’s Jungle Warfare Training Center (known by the acronym CIGS in Portuguese) indicated that China had recently arranged to send a group of officers and NCOs (non-commissioned officers) to be trained at the CIGS, but they canceled that plan and are now asking Brazil to send trainers to China, Defense News reported Sunday (August 9).
“They have now asked us to provide a number of trainers and our jungle warfare training expertise to assist them in developing their own program in China,” the colonel said. Brazilian officials did not indicate when the training program would begin or how many trainers are likely to be sent.
Defense News said it wasn’t clear why the Chinese are expanding their jungle training operations, the trade paper noted the country does have long, jungle-covered borders with several neighbors.
The Brazilians have trained almost 6,000 officers and NCOs in jungle skills. Nearly 500 students have come from foreign countries. The great majority of foreign students have come from Brazil’s Latin American neighbors. But there have been some 27 U.S. attendees and over 100 from Europe, notably from France. Only one attendee, so far, has come from Asia.
CIGS training courses which are conducted up to three times a year, are taught in classes of 100-to-120 students. The 10-week course (eight weeks for the senior officer’s course) teaches a wide variety of jungle warfare techniques ranging from survival and foraging to navigation, fire and movement disciplines, riverine assault techniques, and jungle hygiene procedures, according to Defense News.
UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: UPDATE — Wallops Island Drone-port; Drone Business Report; Latin American UAS Market
UPDATES with link to Latin America drone market article in Unmanned Systems (see last item below)
Virginia Drone Port.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe announced today (August 6) that work will begin in the fall on a 3,000-foot runway for unmanned aircraft at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, on the state’s Eastern Shore, according to a Norfolk television report (WVEC).
Flight operations will begin in 2016, McAuliffe told a news conference at Old Dominion University, home of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.
He also said an agreement has been reached to provide funding to complete the approximately $15 million in repairs to a launch pad damaged last year when a rocket exploded. The spaceport is one of only four facilities licensed by the federal government to launch rockets into orbit.
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The Drone Biz.
Aerial photography and land surveying are among the top uses of commercial unmanned aircraft technology that have been approved for flight by the Federal Aviation Administration, we learn from a report by the largest robotics industry group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).
“Businesses across every industry sector have been waiting to use UAS for years and are excited to finally get this technology off the ground,” Brian Wynne, AUVSI’s president and CEO, said in statement.
The first 500 FAA exemptions to the current ban on commercial drone operations approved were examined by AUVSI and compiled in a report published just prior to the FAA’s announcement that the number of Section 333 exemptions it has granted hit 1,000 this week. For more details, see this article in the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Herald.
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Latin American Market.
Speaking of the drone business, your 4GWAR editor has a story on the Latin American market for unmanned aircraft in the August issue of Unmanned Systems, the AUVSI magazine.
“From Mexico’s Caribbean coast and the Amazon rainforest to the Argentine Pampas, unmanned aircraft are assessing hurricane damage, surveying timberland and monitoring crops and livestock for government agencies and big corporations.”
Now that August is over, you can see our entire story here.