Posts tagged ‘Latin America’
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.
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.
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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).
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.
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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.
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China Boat Seized
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.
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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.
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.
Redefining “Secure Border”
More than a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks showed that America needed to do a better job securing its borders, a debate continues over the best ways to manage who gets in and out of the country.
The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has mushroomed to more than 20,000 since 2001. There have been numerous border enforcement programs like teaming Border Patrol agents with National Guard troops, flooding areas reporting high levels of illegal border entries with large numbers of Border Patrol personnel and equipment. There was even a failed program to build a physical and virtual fence along the border with Mexico — to the tune of $3.5 billion.
Now law enforcement officials are worried abou radicalized U.S.-citizens-turned jihadis coming back from fighting in the Middle East — with skills that could be used for terrorism. And Congress and the White House are embroiled in a political battle over millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, a battle that threatens to shut down the Department of Homeland Security.
Meanwhile, Border Patrol leaders say it is time to rethink what we mean when we talk about securing the border. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher told a Washington think tank gathering last month that a secure border — where no one can cross illegally at any time — is virtually impossible, without doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and boosting the agency’s budget by $97 billion.
Since late 2013, the agency had moved away from determining its effectiveness by counting every person it apprehends trying to cross the border illegally. Instead it has re-evaluated “what it means to secure the border,” Fisher told a border security discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Rather, the Border Patrol characterizes a secure border as one of low risk – where there is a high probability of detection coupled with a high probability of interdiction.
“Border security is not an end state to be achieved and revisited every five years,” Assistant Chief Michael Schroeder told the audience. “It’s a continuous struggle,” he added. Schroeder is the author of an explanatory paper, published by the Border Patrol, detailing how and why it developed the low-risk idea in its 2012-2016 U.S. Border Patrol Strategic Plan. Instead of arrest statistics or measuring resources like number of agents or the size of the agency’s budget, the Border Patrol had to develop “a preliminary set of risk indicators” to analyze risk along U.S. borders.
Fisher is slated to be one of the government and industry speakers this week at a Border Management Summit in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday (February 24-25). You can learn more at the website of the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, the conference sponsor.
The Border Patrol is using technologies like moveable ground radar, biometric identification obtained from first-time illegal border crossers and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to acquire more data on border activity and shifts from past patterns. The situational awareness provided by UAS “is something we’ve never had before. It’s led us to the metrics we have today,” according to Schroeder.
Apprehensions of people trying to cross into the United States illegally are down to 1970 levels. So the Border Patrol is using intelligence and analysis to predict where the high risk areas are — and when and where to move law enforcement resources when drug, gun and people smugglers change tactics.
But a recent report by the DHS inspector general’s office (OIG) casts doubt on the value of border surveillance by unmanned aircraft — and the information they gather.
For starters, the report contends CBP has yet to prove the value of its UAS program while drastically understating the costs. The OIG’s second audit of the program since 2012, found the effort by CBP’s Air and Marine Office “still has no reliable method of measuring its performance” and that its impact on stemming illegal immigration has been minimal.
“We see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border , and there is no reason to invest additional taxpayer funds at this time,” said DHS Inspector General John Roth.
Cold War Frozen?
The United States and Cuba are ending more than 50 years of suspicion and hostility with both countries agreeing to resume diplomatic relations for the first time since 1961, President Barack Obama announced Wednesday (December 17).
There are many angles to this story, good news for banks and maybe American automakers and U.S. antique car collectors and connoisseurs of fine rum and Cuban cigars – and baseball, don’t forget baseball.
But here we’re wondering what the security implications are. Will Venezuela lose another supporter in Latin America? Will Russia? And will this aid the war on drugs? Last year, at a Countering Transnational Organized Crime conference in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S. Marine Corps General John F. Kelly, the head of U.S. Southern Command, said one of the biggest ideological opponents of the United States in the Western Hemisphere was also one of the biggest allies in the war against illegal narcotics.
Kelly noted that nearly all the navies and maritime police units of U.S.-friendly nations in the region are cooperating in the battle against drug trafficking “but of all the partners we deal with, the Nicaraguans are probably our most effective allies in Central America,” even though “we don’t like them and they don’t like us.”
Despite the political and ideological differences between the two countries, Kelly said he wanted to “give a shout out” to the Nicaraguan Coast Guard and Navy for their aggressive policing of the littoral (shallow) waters, which forces drug dealers out on to the open sea where they are more vulnerable to U.S. surveillance.
LATIN AMERICA: Brazil Election; Brazil Buying Gripens; BRICS Talk Military Products; SOUTHCOM and Ebola
Brazil Re-elects Rousseff.
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.
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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 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.
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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).
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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.
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.
Seven Odd Facts About the War of 1812.
After the American victories at Plattsburgh and Lake Champlain and the unsuccessful siege of Fort Erie and attack on Baltimore by the British, things are mercifully quiet just about everywhere on the North American continent this week in 1814. So your 4GWAR editor would like to share seven little known oddities about the War of 1812.
1. Friendly Persuasion. U.S. Major General Jacob Brown was one of the few successful military leaders on the American side. In 1813 his troops repulsed a British attack on Sacket’s Harbor, New York, a major U.S. supply base on Lake Ontario. He led the last invasion of Canada in 1814, capturing Fort Erie. He defeated British-Canadian-First Nations forces at Chippawa Creek and fought them to a standstill at Lundy’s Lane. He also oversaw the successful defense of Fort Erie during a 48-day siege. Ironically, Jacob Brown was born and raised a Quaker, a Christian sect famous for their opposition to war and violence.
2. The Admiral’s Grudge. Vice Admiral Sir Alexander Cochrane, commander of the Royal Navy’s North America Station, was commander-in-chief of the sailors and soldiers that burned Washington, attacked Baltimore and raided up and down the Chesapeake Bay. He had a distinguished record but he did not like America or Americans. He once likened them to a whining spaniel who needed a “good drubbing” every now and then. It’s never been determined why the admiral bore America a grudge. Many believe, however, that it stemmed from the death of his brother, Charles, a British Army officer, at the Siege of Yorktown, Virginia, who was struck and killed by an American canon ball during the last big battle in the War for Independence.
3. War? What War? Given the bloodshed on the high seas, Great Lakes and all along the U.S.-Canadian border, its surprising to learn that for much of the war, farmers in northern New York and some of the New England states sold food, livestock and grain to the British in Canada. Some of this was smuggling, but a lot of the cross-border trade was licensed by one side or the other. Equally surprising, some American merchant ships had license to ship food to the Duke of Wellington’s army in Spain during the Napoleonic Wars and that didn’t stop once Congress declared war on Great Britain. In 1814, Vice Admiral Cochrane put a stop to licensed trade between Nova Scotia and the New England states.
4. Presidential Training Ground. Several prominent young men rose to greater prominence during and after the war and others rose from obscurity to the highest office in the land. They included Secretary of War and Secretary of State James Monroe, who became the fifth president in 1817. John Quincy Adams, the son of the second president and one of the U.S. negotiators in Ghent, Belgium who hammered out a treaty ending the war, became the sixth president in 1825. Andrew Jackson, a Tennesee militia officer who rose to major general of regulars and defeated the Creek Indians at Horseshoe Bend and the British at New Orleans, was elected the 7th president in 1828. William Henry Harrison, a major general who retook Detroit and defeated the British and Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames, was elected the 9th president in 1841. Until Ronald Reagan, he was the oldest man elected president. And the last hero of the war elected president was Zachary Taylor, an Army major who spent most of the war fighting Indians in the West, including holding Fort Harrison in the Indiana Territory with a paltry force against hundreds of Native American warriors. After victories in the Black Hawk, Seminole and Mexican wars, Taylor was elected the 12th president in 1849.
5. Everywhere a Battleground. For a little remembered conflict, the War of 1812 certainly cut a swath of bloodshed and property damage in many of the 18 states in the union at the time. In addition to Louisiana, Maryland, New York, Ohio and Vermont, where significant battles were fought, the British raided or threatened ports and seacoast towns in South Carolina, Virginia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee sent many militiamen and volunteers to fight, especially in the frontier battles of the South and Old Northwest. Several battles were fought against the British, Canadians or their Indian allies in territories that later became the states of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Iowa, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Additionally, U.S. Navy ships battled the Royal Navy or raided maritime commerce off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of South America, in and around Jamaica and other British possessions in the Caribbean and in the English Channel.
6. Commodore Barney — Joshua Barney, one of the few heroes at the Battle of Bladensburg had also been a naval hero in the American Revolution, rising through the ranks and even escaping from a British prison when he was captured. But he was technically not a naval officer during his heroic service in the War of 1812. Frustrated by the lack of advancement in the early American Navy, Barney resigned and accepted a commission in the French Navy. This posed a problem when America and France fought an undeclared naval war (1798-1800). Barney left French service and returned to America but some in the Navy no longer trusted his loyalty. When war with Britain broke out, Barney came up with the idea of protecting the Chesapeake Bay from British raids with a fleet of shallow draft gunboats. He and his flotilla drove the British crazy in early 1814. Barney didn’t quite fit into the Navy’s promotion schedule due to his years of absence and slipping him in would have ruffled a lot of feathers, so President Madison and Navy Secretary William Jones made him a commodore in command of the U.S. Flotilla Service.
7. Black Men in Arms — Many of the flotilla men who served with Barney on the Chesapeake, the Patuxent River and the Battle of Bladensburg were free black men. They stood and fought when most of the white militia men fled at Bladensburg. In fact, one — Charles Bell — stuck with Barney after he was wounded and ordered his men to retreat. After Washington was burned, the flotilla men marched to Baltimore and manned several gun emplacements that guarded the city and the approaches to Fort McHenry. Free black men also joined the American forces defending New Orleans. Vice Admiral Cochrane issued a proclamation while his fleet held sway in the Chesapeake Bay urging American slaves to flee their masters and join the British, either as soldiers or paid workers. Hundreds of blacks fled Virginia and Maryland plantations for freedom. About 600 of the men were trained as soldiers in the Corps of Colonial Marines. They surprised the British with their courage at Bladensburg and other battles. Most returned to Canada with the British when they left the Chesapeake. Not odd, but remarkable.
Belize River Patrol
U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Galla trains with the Belize Special Boat Unit during Southern Partnership Station 2014 on the Moho River, Belize, July 8, 2014.
Southern Partnership is a U.S. Navy deployment, sponsored by U.S. Southern Command, focusing on exchanging expertise with partner nation militaries and security forces.
Galla is a gunner’s mate assigned to Coastal Riverine Squadron 2.
To see more photos of this riverine training exercise, click here.
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.