Posts tagged ‘Colombia’

LAT AM: China, Russia Capitalizing on Organized Crime Chaos; Politics and COVID-19 in Brazil.

Dual Threat.

The chaos created by transnational organized crime groups in Central and South America is creating opportunities for China and Russia to undermine United States influence in the Western Hemisphere, two top U.S. military commanders say.

The littoral combat ship USS Wichita (LCS 13) conducts a bi-lateral maritime exercise with naval counterparts from the Dominican Republic on March 24, 2021. Wichita is deployed to support the Joint Interagency Task Force South’s mission, which includes counter narcotics trafficking in the Caribbean and Eastern Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo)

“Two of the most significant threats are China and transnational criminal organizations,” Navy Admiral Craig Faller told a House Armed Services Committee hearing April 14. Faller, the commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), said China is the “Number One strategic threat of the 21st century,” adding that the Chinese Communist Party — with what he called its “insidious, corrosive and corrupt influence” was seeking “global dominance.”

Faller said China was increasing its influence in the Western Hemisphere with more than 40 commercial seaport deals, making significant loans for political and economic leverage, pushing its IT structure and “engaging in predatory practices” like illegal fishing by industrial fleets.

Southcom’s 2021 posture statement to Congress noted that South and Central America have been reeling under a wave of challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic that has savaged Brazil, political instability and corruption in Venezuela and back-to-back hurricanes that devastated Central America,  prompting mass migrations north. The statement notes external state actors like China and Russia are “looking to exploit the conditions posed by these threats.”

Air Force Gen. Glen VanHerck, commander, U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), agreed, saying the rise of transnation criminal organizations and the “subsequent instability they create, has generated opportunities for our competitors to exploit.”

To read more of this article by your 4GWAR editor, click here.

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Brazil’s Troubles.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that the army might be called into the streets to restore order if lockdown measures against COVID-19 — that he opposes — lead to chaos.

In an April 23 television interview with TV Criticia in the Amazon city of Manaus, Bolsonaro repeated his frequent criticism of restrictions imposed by local governments to curb infections — measures he claims do more harm than good, the Associated Press reported (via the Stars and Stripes website).

(Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
(Photo by Marcos Corrêa/PR via wikipedia)

The right-wing populist president called lockdowns and quarantine “absurd,” adding “If we have problems … we have a plan of how to act. I am the supreme head of the armed forces.”

Concerns about a military takeover in Brazil — like the one in 1964 that lasted for 20 years — have grown after the leaders of Brazil’s army. navy and air force all resigned March 30 when Bolsonaro replaced the defense minister. The government shake-up began, according to NPR, after Foreign Minister Ernesto Araújo tendered his resignation. A few hours later, Defense Minister Fernando Azevedo e Silva said that he too was leaving the government.

Bolsonaro, is under intense pressure and mounting criticism as Brazil’s coronavirus cases spin further out of control. The departures accompany lawmakers’ threats to impeach Bolsonaro as well as his dropping popularity with the public.

Bolsonaro said April 7 that he had asked the armed forces if they had troops available to control possible social unrest from the COVID-19 crisis — adding to fears that he is pushing the military into a political role.

Critics fret that Bolsonaro, a far-right former army captain, aims to marshal the army and police as a political force ahead of a fraught 2022 election, Reuters reported.

Bolsonaro has long sought to minimize the coronavirus, has shunned masks and was slow to purchase vaccines. Recently, he has suggested Brazilians could revolt against stay-at-home measures imposed by governors and mayors.

Brazil’s health crisis is being described as a “humanitarian catastrophe” by the international medical aid agency Doctors Without Borders (known by its French acronym, MSF), which has teams in parts of the country, NPR reported.

“The Brazilian authorities’ … refusal to adopt evidence-based public health measures has sent far too many to an early grave,” MSF’s international president Dr. Christos Christou said in a statement on April 14.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 and deaths remain high in Brazil as the country’s campaign to vaccinate against the disease stumbles, according to the VoA website.

With more than 386,414 total deaths, Brazil has the second highest toll in the world from the pandemic, behind only the United States, which has recorded 571,883 COVID fatalities, as of April 24.

People wait in the observation area after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City April 13, 2021. The convention center serves as a mass vaccination site with more than 600 National Guard personnel assisting. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Specialist Li Ji)

Just over 5 percent of the population of South America’s largest nation’s has been fully vaccinated. The United States has fully vaccinated more than 26 percent of its population, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

ICU wards in cities within Rio de Janeiro’s metropolitan area are reportedly nearly full, with many patients sharing space and oxygen bottles. Brazil’s vaccination campaign has been slow because of supply issues. The country’s two biggest laboratories face supply constraints.

The nation’s health ministry bet on a single vaccine, the AstraZeneca shot, and after supply problems surfaced, bought only one backup, the Chinese-manufactured CoronaVac.

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More Covid Woes.

Brazil is far from the only South American country hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Peru has one of the highest COVID-19 totals in Latin America, with more than 1,745,000 cases and 59,012 deaths as of April 24, according to Johns Hopkin University Covid Resource Center

Central America, the Caribbean and northern South America.

Peru began new nationwide restrictions for one month starting April 19, a day after reaching a new record of COVID-19 deaths. The country’s health ministry registered 433 COVID-19 related deaths on Sunday April 18, following a steady increase in deaths this month, the VoA website reported.

The new government order also places limits on the size of gatherings and the mandatory social curfew accordance comes with threat alert levels, beginning with moderate, high, very high, and extreme risk.

The capital, Lima, is listed at the extreme risk level, meaning residents are prohibited from going outside on Sundays, the state run Andina News Agency reported. The decree also extends the national state of emergency for 31 days (about one month), beginning May 1.

Other countries south of the U.S. border with high COVID-19 infection and death rates include: Argentina with 2,824,652 cases and 61,474 deaths; Colombia with 2,740,544 cases and 70,886 deaths; Mexico,  2,323,430 cases, and 214,841 deaths; Chile 1,162,811 cases and 25,742 deaths; Panama 362,358 cases and 6,207 deaths; Venezuela with 185,278 cases and  2,028 deaths, as of April 24.

April 24, 2021 at 11:21 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (November 16, 2018)

Airborne Medical Assistance.

HSC-22 Conduct Flight Operations in Colombia in Support of Enduring Promise Initiative

(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Bigley)

Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Glass looks out from an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter over the landscape near Turbo, Colombia. This photo was taken November 14, 2018, during a medical support mission to Central and South America as part of the Enduring Promise initiative.

Sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, the 11-week mission is working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru and Honduras, as well as Colombia. The embarked medical team will provide care on board the USNS Comfort hospital ship and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on national medical systems caused, in part, by an increase in cross-border migrants fleeing a severe economic crisis in Venezuela. The economic collapse of once oil-rich Venezuela has led to severe shortages of food, medicine and basic goods. Many of those fleeing the country said they cannot get the operations and medical care they need.

November 16, 2018 at 10:13 pm 1 comment

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.

Courtesy Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

Courtesy Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport

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.

*** *** ***

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.

Photo courtesy Aerialtronics.

Photo courtesy Aerialtronics.

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.

August 7, 2015 at 12:34 am Leave a comment

LAT AM REVIEW: Colombian Attack; Mexican Drug Lord Seized, U.S. Coast Guard Focus on Western Hemisphere, Rio Defense Expo

U.S. Condemns Rebel Attack.

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Colombia map by CIA World Faxback

Eleven Colombian soldiers were killed in fighting with Marxist guerrillas last week  (April 14), prompting Colombia’s president to resume air attacks against rebel camps.

The attack and the government’s response have many observers worried they could jeopardize peace talks seeking to end a 50-year insurgency that has cost thousands of lives in Colombia.

A spokesman for the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) — which has been trying to overthrow the government since the 1960s — claimed the soldiers initiated the fighting near Cauca in western Colombia. But President Juan Manuel Santos called it a deliberate attack by the FARC and ordered the resumption of bombing raids on rebel targets. Seventeen other soldiers were wounded in the skirmish and one guerrilla was also killed.

Despite the violence, the Voice of America reported the two-year-old peace talks resumed on Thursday (April 16) in Havana, Cuba where Colombian government officials and FARC commanders are trying to negotiate an end to a war that has killed 220,000 and displaced millions since 1964.

The U.S. State Department issued a statement April 17 condemning “the brutal attack in Cauca orchestrated by the FARC.” The brief statement called the attack a “direct violation of the unilateral ceasefire FARC committed to” last December.  “We support President Santos’ decision to continue negotiations but also lift his halt of aerial bombardment of FARC,” the statement added.

The State Department said it reaffirms “our continuing support to the government of Colombia in its efforts to end the nation’s 50 year conflict.”

In February, the FARC said it would stop recruiting fighters younger than 17. Then in March, the two sides announced an initiative to work together to remove land mines, the New York Times reported. Soon afterward, Santos ordered a one-month halt to the aerial bombing of FARC encampments. Just a week prior to the latest attack, the president extended the bombing respite for another month.

Since the peace talks began, there have been other clashes with the FARC that resulted in a large number of casualties. In July 2013, the military reported that 15 soldiers died when the rebels attacked an oil pipeline, the Times added.

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Mexican Drug Lord Captured.

Jesus Salas Aguayo  (DEA Photo)

Jesus Salas Aguayo
(DEA Photo)

The head of another transnational drug cartel has been captured.

On Sunday (April 19) Mexican authorities said they have captured the man who has led the Juarez drug cartel since last year’s arrest of then-leader Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, the Associated Press reported.

National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said Jesus Salas Aguayo was caught Friday (April 17) about 130 kilometers south of the border metropolis of Ciudad Juarez. One of Salas’ bodyguards was killed and another was arrested.

Rubido said Salas Aguayo is linked to a 2010 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez, as well as a 2012 bar attack that killed 15, and the 2009 slaying of a protected witness in El Paso. The website of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration says Salas Aguayo is wanted in the United States for possession and distribution of narcotics and for conspiracy.

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Coast Guard Focus.

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.  (U.S. Navy photo)

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.
(U.S. Navy photo)

The U.S. Coast Guard says it’s not enough to seize thousands of pounds of cocaine at sea or even arrest the people transporting illegal drugs by boat.

Instead, it’s crucial to defeat the transnational organized crime (TOC) networks behind the illicit commerce in narcotics and people, according to the Coast Guard’s Western Hemisphere Strategy.

“Last year alone. the Coast Guard took 91 metric tons of cocaine out of the [trafficking] stream,” Lieutenant Commander. Devon Brennan told a briefing on the first day of the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Exposition. He noted that seizure figure is three times the amount of drugs seized by all U.S. law enforcement agencies “including along the southwestern border.”

But going after transnational cartels is only part of the Coast Guard’s regional strategy. “In the next decade, the Coast Guard must confront significant challenges to maritime safety, efficiency and security in the Western Hemisphere,” the Strategy states, identifying three priorities over the next 10 years: combatting [criminal] networks, Securing Borders and Safeguarding Commerce.

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Brazil Defense Expo.

One of the biggest defense conferences in the Americas, Latin America Aero & Defense (LAAD 2015),  just ended in Rio de Janeiro.

Armored ground vehicles, helicopters and small arms were among the items on display at the LAAD 2015 international defense and security exhibition.

“Despite budgetary uncertainties, the Brazilian Army remains steadfast in the pursuit of its key strategic projects,”  according to IHS Jane’s website.

The army’s seven key strategic projects include the SISFRON border-monitoring system; a cyber defense project; the Guarani Strategic Project for (PEE Guarani) for a family of wheeled amphibious armored personnel carriers (APCs);  and the Attainment of Full Operational Capability (OCOP) project, which aims to equip the army at a minimum level of readiness to guarantee the homeland defense mission.

Brazil’s defense strategy includes air and naval asset acquisitions to assert Brazilian control over its deepwater offshore oil reserves and to secure the waters of the Amazon Basin, which Brasilia considers a natural resources commodity as valuable as oil.

Brazil: CIA World Factbook

Brazil: CIA World Faxback

April 19, 2015 at 11:20 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Colombian Insurgency Heats Up — Again

Eleven Soldiers Killed.

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Eleven Colombian soldiers were killed in fighting with Marxist guerrillas Tuesday (April 14), prompting Colombia’s president to resume a bombing campaign on rebel camps — jeopardizing peace talks seeking to end a 60-year insurgency that has cost thousands of lives.

The government blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, for an attack with guns and grenades on an army platoon late Tuesday night. The rebels said government troops initiated the skirmish, which occurred in the Andean state of Cauca and injured at least 17 other soldiers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile,  FARC rebels blamed the Bogota government on Thursday (April 16) for the renewed violence but they declined to say whether they had broken their own ceasefire. President Juan Manuel Santos called it a deliberate attack and ordered the resumption of bombing raids on FARC targets, the Voice of America reported. Santos halted the aerial bombings after the FARC’s called a unilateral truce on December 20.

Despite the violence, VoA said the two-year-old peace talks resumed on Thursday (April 16) in Havana, where Colombian government officials and FARC commanders are trying to negotiate an end to a war that has killed 220,000 and displaced millions since 1964.

More on this later in LA AM REVIEW.

April 16, 2015 at 11:57 pm Leave a comment

AROUND AFRICA: Tunis Update; Attacks on and by Al Shabaab; Mali-UN Chopper Crash; Mali-Rebel Talks

Tunis Attack.

Tunisia in Africa (CIA World Factbook)

Tunisia in Africa
(CIA World Factbook)

The brutal extremist group that calls itself Islamic State is claiming responsibility for the attack Wednesday (March 18) on Tunisia’s popular national museum that left more than 20 people dead — most of them foreign tourists, the BBC reported.

Tunisian officials say two of the attacking gunmen were also killed and as many as three accomplices may have escaped. Officials in Tunis, the North African nation’s capital, say nine people have been detained for questioning in connection with the attack.

Initial reports Wednesday said the gunmen all attacked the National Assembly which is in the same compound as the museum and where lawmakers were debating a counterterrorism bill. here were no casualties at the legislative complex. Officials now say the museum and tourists were the attack’s targets.

The extremist group said the attack was aimed as “citizens of Crusader countries” and added that it was the “first drop of rain,” the Wall Street Journal and other news outlets reported.

The Bardo National Museum in Tunis, where more than 20 people were killed in a terrorist attack, is famous for its Greek, Roman and Carthaginian artifacts. (Photo by Alexandre Moreau via wikipedia)

The Bardo National Museum in Tunis, where more than 20 people were killed in a terrorist attack, is famous for its Greek, Roman and Carthaginian artifacts.
(Photo by Alexandre Moreau via wikipedia)

Twenty tourists from Britain, Colombia, France, Italy and Japan, came under fire as they disembarked from two tourist buses outside the Bardo National Museum. Others fled into the museum where some were taken hostage and some killed. At least two Tunisians, a female museum custodian and a security force officer, were killed in the attack.

Tunisian officials said troops were guarding key points in major cities throughout the country in the wake of the attack. Some Mediterranean cruise lines have suspended calling at Tunis for the time being, USA Today reported.

Wednesday’s assault was the worst attack involving foreigners in Tunisia since an al Qaeda suicide bombing on a synagogue killed 21 people on the tourist island of Djerba in 2002, according to Reuters.

*** *** ***
Apache Down.

Aerial view of the area surrounding Gao, Northern Mali. (United Nations photo)

Aerial view of the area surrounding Gao, Northern Mali.
(United Nations photo)

Two Dutch United Nations peacekeepers were killed when their Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) Apache attack helicopter crashed in northern Mali, Al Jazeera reports. At a press conference in the Netherlands Tuesday (March 17), the Dutch military confirmed the crash, calling it an accident.

The helicopter was conducting a firing exercise on ground targets over uninhabited terrain with another Dutch Apache when it crashed, the RNLAF said.

The accident occurred 47 kilometres to the north of the Dutch compound. Immediately after the crash, the crash site was secured by a French attack helicopter. Dutch special forces secured and guarded the site on the ground. An investigation into the cause of the accident is being mounted.

The helicopter, from the U.N.’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), crashed about 20 kilometers (xx miles) from Gao in northern Mali. The pilot died on impact and he co-pilot died from his injuries at a French military field hospital at Gao on the River Niger. Both pilots were members of 301 Squadron based in Gilze-Rijen airbase in southern Netherlands.

Mali (CIA World Factbook) Click on image to enlarge

Mali
(CIA World Factbook)
Click on image to enlarge

MINUSMA has some 11,000 personnel on the ground in Mali, about 670 of them are Dutch. More than 40 peacekeepers with MINUSMA have been killed since the mission was created in 2013 to keep the peace between rebelling Tuareg tribesmen in the northern deserts and the government in Bamako to the south. Because of those numbers, according to Al Jazeera, MINUSMA is considered the most dangerous U.N. mission in the world.

*** *** ***

Mali Peace Talks.

Meanwhile, Mali’s government  said this week that it won’t participate in further talks with rebels seeking autonomy for northern Mali.

The collapse in peace talks could leave the north’s political status open indefinitely, a situation that Islamist militants active in the region could exploit, Reuters reports.

Mediators have been working for months to get talks going between a group of Tuareg-led rebels from the north and the government in Bamako the capital in the southern part of the vast northwest African country.

Bamako signed a preliminary proposal earlier this month but the rebels erected it, saying it did not grant their region, called Azawad, enough autonomy. Those rebels took  advantage of a 2012 military coup in the capital to sweep down from the north seizing territory and cities like Timbuktu. But their rebellion was hijacked by radical Islamist groups, some tied to Al Qaeda branches. They imposed harsh fundamentalist Muslim law and destroyed several holy sites revered by Muslims they consider heretics.

The rebels were threatening to capture Bamako in early 2013 when France intervened, sending troops, armored vehicles and aircraft to drive the rebels back. Eventually, a U.N. peace mission was created.

*** *** ***

Al Shabab Blamed.

The Horn of Africa

The Horn of Africa

Four people have been killed in a terror attack in northeastern Kenya about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the border with Somalia, the BBC reports.

Security forces said hooded men locked people inside a shop, then lobbed a hand grenade in, causing a fire.

Al Qaeda-linked al Shabab militants in Somalia said they carried out the attack — the fourth in five days in the troubled northeast region. Kenya’s northeast region has often been attacked by al Shabab, which has vowed to get revenge on Nairobi for sending troops into Somalia in 2011 to help the United Nations-backed government battle the Islamists terrorists.

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Al Shabab Official Killed.

And last week, a U.S. drone missile strike killed a top official in al Shabab’s security service, the Amniyat, according to the Voice of America website.

The March 12 airstrike hit a car carrying Adan Garaar — described by the Pentagon as  working for al Shabab’s intelligence wing and also connected to the 2013 attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya that killed more than 60 people.

Last month al Shabab released a video that called for attacks on Western shopping malls. The Mall of America, one of the largest in the United States, is in Minnesota, which has a large Somali immigrant population.

Prosecutors say dozens of people from Minnesota, many of them Somali-Americans, have traveled or attempted to travel overseas to support groups such as the Islamic State or al Shabab since 2007.

U.S. law enforcement officials are concerned about the potential for radicalization among embers of immigrants communities.

March 19, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Mexico Arrests Drug Kingpin; Brazil’s Navy; Brazil-Indonesia Chill; Colombia Stops Chinese Ship; Chinese Investment [UPDATE]

UPDATES WITH new stories on Brazil, Chinese investment in Latin America (in italics)

Nabbed: Zetas Cartel Chief.

Omar Trevino-Morales (Mexican Drug Cartels Wiki)

Omar Trevino-Morales
(Mexican Drug Cartels Wiki)

Mexican police and soldiers on Wednesday (March 4) captured the man widely considered to be the most important remaining leader of the brutal Zetas drug cartel.

The Associated Press reports that Omar Trevino Morales – alias Z-42 – was arrested – without a shot fired – in a pre-dawn raid in a wealthy suburb of the northern Mexican city of Monterrey. Morales is the younger brother of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales – described as the most bloodthirsty leader of Mexico’s most violent drug gang, the Zetas. The gang  originally was formed by deserters from an elite army unit who provided security for another narcotics ring, the Gulf Cartel, based along the Texas border.

The elder Trevino Morales was captured in 2013. Nearly a year earlier, Mexican marines killed the Zetas’ other leader, Herberto Lazcano, known as “El Lazca.”

It was the second high-profile capture of a drug lord in the last week, Reuters reported (via the Voice of America). Servando Gomez, leader of the Knights Templar drug gang, that operates in Michoacan state. The back-to-back arrests lend a boost to President Enrique Pena Nieto’s efforts to battle organized crime. A wave of violence, spurred by battles between authorities and drug gangs — and in-fighting among the gangs themselves — has claimed more than 100,000 lives in Mexico since 2007.
*** *** ***

Brazil’s Naval Maneuvers.

The Brazilian Navy is in the midst of its biggest operation ever — including 250 vessels, 10 aircraft and 15,000 service members — to police the country’s lakes, rivers and 5,250 miles (8,500 kilometers) of Atlantic coastline.

Operation Amazonia Azul (Blue Amazonia) reflects the strategic importance Brzil’s leaders have placed on enforcing jurisdiction over the country’s territorial waters, according to EFE, the Spanish language news service. Brazil is South America’s largest country in area and population (and fifth worldwide in both categories).

The Brazilian Navy is deploying ships and aircraft in Operation Blue Amazonia. (U.S.Navy photo)

The Brazilian Navy is deploying ships and aircraft in Operation Blue Amazonia.
(U.S.Navy photo)

Blue Amazonia is he second operation of its kind in a year, a naval spokesman told EFE, adding that it is the largest to date and includes all Brazil’s naval resources.

Brazil’s national defense strategy focuses on protection of its natural resources — both the fresh water supplies of Amazon River basin and massive undersea oil reserves. In addition to helping the navy prepare for its role as defender of Brazil’s oil reserves off the Atlantic coast, the exercise serves as a test run of security measures for the 2016 Olympic Games to be held in Rio.

*** *** ***

Brazil-Indonesia Spat.

Diplomatic relations are strained between Brazil and potential arms customer Indonesia after the world’s most populous Muslim country, executed six convicts, including a Brazilian citizen, for drug trafficking in January.

Since then, Brazil has withdrawn its ambassador to Indonesia (as has the Netherlands, which also saw one of its citizens executed). A second Brazilian national remains on death row in Indonesia.

But Brazil’s defense minister say the tension between the two countries will soon be overcome and are unlikely to affect their potential weapon purchase deal. Defense Minister Jacques Wagner said Tuesday (March 3) that there is no “crisis” between the two nations. Wagner added that the momentary strain in the relationship will not influence Indonesia’s purchase of rocket launchers and 16 fighter jets from Brazil, according to China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua.

*** *** ***

China Boat Seized

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Columbia authorities have detained the captain of a Chinese cargo ship bound for Cuba when investigators discovered a shipment of explosives and other arms on board.

The ship was stopped over the weekend in the Caribbean port of Cartegena, officials said Wednesday (March 4). About 100 tons of gunpowder, almost three million detonators and some 3,000 artillery shells were found on board the Da Dan Xia, but the ship’s manifest said it was carrying grain products, the BBC reported.

Wu Hong, the ship’s captain. Would be charged with weapons trafficking, the Colombian attorney general’s office said. The Chinese foreign ministry said the captain had no violated any international rules. A ministry spokeswoman said China was “communicating with the parties on this matter.” No immediate comment from Cuban authorities.

The incident comes nearly two years after a North Korean ship was detained in Panama for illegally transporting war material from Cuba to North Korea through the Panama Canal.

*** *** ***

China’s Latin American Play.

China is fast overtaking the United States as a lender and investor in Latin America.

Chinese banks increased investments in Latin America by 71 percent last year, to $22 billion, and the country plans to double its trade volume with the Central and South American region over the next decade. This comes as U.S. power in the Americas is starting to erode. U.S. cash is actually fleeing the region as investors see better deals at home or elsewhere, according to CNN Money.

“What we’re looking at is not simply an economic play. It’s an economic play that also has political and strategic undertones,” Ilan Berman, vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington tells the CNN website. Outside of economic ties, Berman points out that China has helped fund Argentina’s nuclear power plant, launched Bolivia’s first satellite and is rumored to be helping Venezuela start its own drone program.

According to estimates published by the China-Latin America Finance Database, Chinese loans exceed the combined worth of those by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank, the BBC reported.

But as China’s economic boom slows, the effects are being felt in countries around the world that have seen their economies rise on commodity sales to China.  Latin America delivered iron ore and copper to build Chinese office and apartment buildings, oil to fuel trucks and cars as well as soybeans and meat to feed a growing middle class. China’s share of Latin American exports grew tenfold between 2000 and 2013, according to The Financialist website.

Latin America has enjoyed an economic boom supplying commodities like copper to China. (Wikipedia)

Latin America has enjoyed an economic boom supplying commodities like copper to China.
(Wikipedia)

But as the world’s second-largest economy shifts away from manufacturing and exports and toward domestic consumption, it has helped pull the bottom out from under what was effectively a decade-long commodities supercycle. The spot price of iron ore sits at just over half what it was a year ago at $68 a ton (down from $128) while copper spot prices have plummeted from above $3.20 a pound to $2.68, reported The Financialist — a digital magazine sponsored by Credit Suisse.

As Nouriel Roubini, Chairman of Roubini Global Economics said at Credit Suisse’s recent Latin American Investment Conference in Sao Paulo, “Most of the economies in Latin America were not ready to adjust to this change in commodity prices.” GDP growth in Latin America has fallen steadily, from 6.3 in 2010 to 1.2 percent in 2014. The World Bank’s statistical models predict that if Chinese GDP growth drops 1 percentage point over the course of two years, Latin American output would shrink by 0.6 percentage point as a result, the website reported.

March 5, 2015 at 12:41 am Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Election; Brazil Buying Gripens; BRICS Talk Military Products; SOUTHCOM and Ebola

Brazil Re-elects Rousseff.

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Dilma Rousseff Official photo via Wikipedia

Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has been re-elected in a tight race, defeating a challenge by a pro-business candidate of the Social Democracy Party, Aecio Neves. The left-leaning Rousseff won 51.6 percent of the vote Sunday (October 26), compared to Neves’ 48.4 percent polling, according to The Associated Press.

The AP called the bruising election contest “the tightest race the nation has seen since its return to democracy three decades ago.” Rousseff is a protégé of her immediate predecessor, former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who hand-picked her to take his place in 2010. Their Workers Party has held onto Brazil’s presidency since 2003. The contest came down to which candidate voters thought would be best for Brazil’s sagging economy — the world’s seventh-largest.

The majority of voters went with Rousseff’s policies which favor the poor and middle class Brazilians. But the country’s markets saw it differently. Brazilian stocks and the nation’s currency plunged in trading around the world Monday, USA Today reported. The country’s currency, the real, dropped 1.91 percent against the U.S. dollar on Monday. But Brazil’s markets rebounded Tuesday (October 28). The country’s currency and stock markets closed higher as bargain hunters stepped in after Monday’s sharp selloff, according to Reuters.

*** *** ***

Gripen Jets for Brazil

Just a few hours after the election results were announced, Brazil and Swedish aircraft maker, Saab, said they had reached a $5.4 billion (39.3 billion Swedish krona) for 36 new Saab Gripen NG jetfighter.

Saab will start delivering the first jets to the Brazilian Air Force in 2019 with deliveries running until 2024, according to Defense News.

The Gripen NG Jet Fighter (Photo courtesy of Saab)

The Gripen NG Jet Fighter
(Photo courtesy of Saab)

The deal calls for 28 single-seat jets and eight two-seat aircraft. The two seaters will be developed with Brazilian industry, Defense News said, adding that Saab officials say negotiations are underway between Brazil and Sweden on a possible deal to lease Gripens until the first batch of Gripens are delivered.

Saab beat out Boeing’s F/A-18 and Dassault Aviation’s Rafale fighters last year as the winning contractor. The deal is the biggest order Saab aircraft have ever landed, Defense News said.

The full contract comes into effect once export control-related authorizations and other conditions are met, Saab said. The Gripensare replacing Brazil’s fleet of Mirage 2000 fighters, according to MarketWatch.

*** *** ***

Brazil, Russia, South Africa Talking

According to the Russian news agency TASS, three and maybe four members of the emerging economies group known as the BRICS are discussing the possibility of joint development of “military purpose products.”

TASS quoted the deputy director of the Russian Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation Anatoly Punchuk as saying “In terms of BRICS [Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa], a series of major projects with India is being implemented now. South Africa shows more interest in cooperation with Russia in the joint development and production of military weaponry.”

Punchuk spoke in France where he is leading the Russian delegation at Euronaval 2014, an international naval defence and maritime exhibition and conference).

*** *** ***

SOUTHCOM Chief on Ebola

The head of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) says the potential spread of the Ebola virus into Central and South America is a possibility that bears careful monitoring.

Speaking at the National Defense University in Washington earlier this month (October 8) Marine Corps General John Kelly said if the deadly virus that has killed 4,000 people in Africa makes its way to the Western Hemisphere, many countries, like Haiti, will have little ability to deal with an outbreak, according to DoD News.

“So, much like West Africa, it will rage for a period of time,” Kelly said. If the disease gets to countries like Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, will cause a panic “and here will be mass migration,” Kelly predicted.

He added that SOUTHCOM is in close contact with U.S. Africa Command to see what practices are working there.

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.  (U.S. Navy photo)

Cocaine seized in Central American waters.
(U.S. Navy photo)

On another issue, Kelly told the university audience that Central America needs a campaign plan to combat transnational crime syndicates, reinstitute the rule of law and regain sovereignty over their own territories.

Citing Colombia as a success story, Kelly said the government in Bogota shows what a country can do to throw off narcoterrorists and reassert government control. “They are a great example of what can be done so long as a government and a people — along with some help from the United States” work together towards a common goal, DoD News reported.

Colombia battled FARC leftist rebels for six decades — half of that time fighting violent narcotics cartels as well — before restoring the rule of law and re-establishing security throughout the country.

El Salvador, Guatemala and El Salvador are in the same situation Colombia was in in the mid-1980s, Kelly said.

October 28, 2014 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO Extra (August 8, 20104)

Fall Guys

U.S. Army photo by Maj. Edward Lauer

U.S. Army photo by Maj. Edward Laue

Special operations troops assigned to U.S. Southern Command track with their fellow parachutists from Colombia during an international free fall event at Fort Tolemaida, Colombia, July 30. The parachute drop was part of Fuerzas Comando 2014, a commando skills competition for military and polic special operations forces from the Western Hemisphere.

We know we just ran a photo from Fuerzas Commando last week as the Friday Foto. But were taken by the sharp colors and contrasts in this Army photo when we were looking fro this week’s FRIDAY FOTO.

This year, the U.S. team — including Green Berets from the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group — finished 2nd out of 17 teams, the best performance by a U.S. team since the competition began 10 years ago. By the way, the Colombian team came out on top, taking first place for the sixth time. The team from El Salvador finished third.

To see more photos of the free fall drop and the closing ceremonies, click here.

 

August 8, 2014 at 6:32 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (August 1, 2014)

Knotty Problem

 U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Alex Licea

U.S. Army photo by Master Sgt. Alex Licea

A soldier from El Salvador tries to get out of the spider web obstacle during the Fuerzas Comando obstacle course July 29 at Fort Tolemaida, Colombia. The course was the final event of the competition. Fuerzas Comando 2014, established in 2004, is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored special operations skills competition and fellowship program for militaries in the Western Hemisphere.

To se more photos from this commando competition, click here.

To read an article about it in Spanish (En Espanol) click here:

 

August 1, 2014 at 1:44 am Leave a comment

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