Posts tagged ‘Latin America’

FRIDAY FOTO (May 13, 2022)

DEEP BLUE.

(Canadian Armed Forces Photo by Corporal Hugo Montpetit, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Members from the Royal Canadian Navy’s Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic and Pacific, assisted by U.S. Army Divers train Caribbean divers in search techniques training during Exercise TRADEWINDS 22 in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize on May 10, 2022.

To watch a video of this training exercise, click here, but you may want to skip it if you’re prone to seasickness.

May 13, 2022 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

LAT AM: SOUTHCOM Command Change; Regional Deal on Amazon Forests

First Female Commander for SOUTHCOM.

U.S. Southern Command has changed leaders and the new chief, U.S. Army General Laura Richardson, is the first woman to head the sprawling geographic combatant command.

U.S. Army General Laura J. Richardson, assumes command from Defense Secretary Lloyd  Austin at SOUTHCOM Headquarters in Doral, Florida, Oct. 29, 2021.  (SOUTHCOM photo by Master Sergeant Stephen J. Caruso)

In a command change ceremony October 29 at SOUTHCOM headquarters in Doral, Florida, Navy Admiral Craig Faller, turned over U.S. military responsibility for the Latin American and Caribbean regions to Richardson. The 57-year-old general is only the second woman, after Air Force General Lori Robinson, to lead a geographic combatant command.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended the ceremony as did several dignitaries from the region, including Colombia’s Minister of National Defense Diego Molano.

Austin congratulated Molano on the recent capture of Colombia’s most-wanted cartel leader, Dario Antonio Úsaga (alias Otoniel). The two defense leaders discussed deepening cooperation on strategic issues including Colombia’s contributions to global and regional security, migration, cyber defense, and intelligence. They also stressed the importance of respect for democracy and human rights in all aspects of the bilateral defense relationship, according to the Pentagon.

SOUTHCOM is responsible for providing contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation in its assigned area of responsibility which includes Central America (but not Mexico), South America and the Caribbean.

During the war in Iraq, Richardson commanded an assault helicopter battalion and flew missions to support troops on the ground, Austin noted. She later commanded U.S. Army North, before taking command of SOUTHCOM. “There isn’t a crisis that she can’t handle,” Austin said.

Reflecting on his nearly three years at SOUTHCOM, Faller noted that democracies in the Western Hemisphere have been under assault from a vicious circle of threats, the Tampa Bay Times reported. They include corruption, climate change, COVID-19, major hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanoes, and transnational criminal organizations as well as “the corrosive, malign influence of the People’s Republic of China.”

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Curbing Amazon Deforestation.

The week before the SOUTHCOM ceremony, after high-level talks in Colombia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a regional partnership to address deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

“We’ll give much-needed financial assistance to help manage protected areas and Indigenous territories, and we’ll help scale up low-carbon agricultural practices to farmers throughout the Amazon,” Blinken said October 21, in the capital, Bogota, the VoA website reported.

“This new regional partnership will help prevent up to 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere while capturing another 52,000 metric tons of carbon, and we estimate it will save — save — more than 45,000 hectares of forest,” he added.

Deforestation in the Maranhão state of Brazil, in 2016. (Photo by Ibama from Brasil – Operação Hymenaea, Julho/2016, via wikipedia)

The Amazon spans eight countries in South America, including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The Amazon and other rainforests are crucial because they take in carbon dioxide and produce about one-fifth of the world’s oxygen. About a third of Colombia is in the Amazon.

October 31, 2021 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (September 10, 2021)

Summertime in Chile.

(U.S. Army Photo by Sergeant Gregory Muenchow)

Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division cross-country ski at the Chilean Army Mountain School in Portillo, Chile on August 21, 2021. That’s right August 21. It’s winter that far south and that high up — over 9,000 feet.

About 120 soldiers, of the 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, learned the basics of cold weather mountain warfare including survival, movement and combat fundamentals as part of the Southern Vanguard 2021 exercise between U.S. and Chilean soldiers.

They also practiced casualty rescue via rappelling down a cliff and how to traverse a mountain aboard a mule among other skills troops need in mountain warfare.

September 10, 2021 at 9:25 am Leave a comment

SHAKO: WAR WITH MEXICO — 1846

Invasion.

On this date 175 years ago, August 17, 1846, Colonel Stephen W. Kearny, commanding the U.S. Army’s 1st Dragoons Regiment entered Santa Fe (in what is now the state of New Mexico) and occupied the town without resistance from the local populace.

Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny, U.S. Army 1st Dragoons (via wikipedia)

It was the first time since the War of 1812 that a large U.S. force crossed an international boundary to invade another country.

It was also the first time U.S. forces planned to take permanent control of an area populated by people who spoke a different language and generally had a different culture than that of the United States.

Kearny was dispatched from Fort Leavenworth (Kansas) to Santa Fe by President James Knox Polk on June 16, 1842. It was just a month since Congress passed war legislation and two battles had been fought in the disputed border area along the Rio Grande.

After a difficult, horse-killing trip with little water or forage along the Santa Fe Trail, Kearny issued a proclamation before he arrived in Santa Fe, that said in part, he came to “New Mexico with a large military force for the purpose of seeking union with, and ameliorating the condition of the inhabitants.” He advised the locals that “so long as they continue in such [cooperative] pursuits they … will be respected  in their rights, both civil and religious.”

Mexican-American War map.

The colonel wasted no time, however, building a fort overlooking the main plaza of Santa Fe to remind the New Mexicans and Indians — who had been raiding villages in the region — of U.S. authority.

This blog is the first in a series of, at first occasional and later regularly scheduled, posts taking a look at the war between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848 and its implications for both countries.

It was a war of many firsts from the first large-scale joint Army-Navy amphibious landing in a foreign country, at Vera Cruz, to the Army’s first encounter with bloody urban warfare in Monterrey. The rugged geography of Mexico, desserts, mountains,  challenged U.S. planning, transportation and logistics. The war also was a training ground for the most recent graduates of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York. Young officers like Ulysses Grant, George Meade, P.G.T. Beauregard, Braxton Bragg and Thomas Jackson would rise to command troops on both sides in the American Civil War.

There were also moral issues. As young Lieutenant Grant would write years later, after his term as the 18th U.S. president, that it was “the most unjust war ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”

U.S. infantry and dragoon on the march in Mexico.

August 17, 2021 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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.

*** *** ***

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.

*** *** ***

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 (March 12, 2021)

Tree Talk.

(U.S. Army photo by Specialist Aaron Schaeper) Click on photo to enlarge image.

A member of the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) prepares a sniping position with Guatemalan Special Forces operator prior to a training exercise in Guatemala, March 3, 2020.While it has been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in previous years, the 7th Special Forces Group focuses on Latin America (except for Mexico) as it’s area of operations.

The 7th SFG traces its heritage back to the 1st Special Service Force on 9 July 1942 at Camp William Harrison, Montana. This specialized Canadian-American unit was organized and trained to conduct commando raids against Nazi Germany’s fledgling nuclear weapons capability in the Scandinavian region of occupied Europe. However, the unit was diverted to the campaign in the Aleutian Islands, where they were confronted by not only Japanese, but the brutal arctic climate. Upon successful culmination of the Aleutian Campaign, the Special Service Force was transferred to the European theater. They fought with distinction in both southern France and Italy, where they earned the nickname “The Devil’s Brigade.”

The soldier on the right is wearing what is known as a ghillie suit.   Worn by civilian hunters and military snipers, the ghillie suit is designed to look like heavy foliage in a forest or field. It was originally developed by Scottish gamekeepers as a portable hunting blind and first adopted for war in 1916. The name derives from a Scottish word for “lad” or “servant.”

March 12, 2021 at 1:08 am Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (January 8, 2021)

Sunup or Sundown?

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jason Waite)

We don’t know if this photo was taken at the end of a day or the beginning. What we do know is that it shows Sailors lowering a pilot ladder from the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John Finn on December 17, 2020. The John Finn is conducting routine operations with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group in the U.S. Third Fleet‘s area of operations — the Eastern Pacific Ocean from Alaska to the Antarctic.

With all the “stuff” that’s been going on for the last few days, we thought 4GWAR FRIDAY FOTO visitors might enjoy a calm, quiet moment at sea.

January 8, 2021 at 1:10 am 2 comments

LATIN AMERICA: Mexican Border Mess

Border Brouhaha.

The wrangling in Washington over funding President Donald Trump’s planned wall along the U.S. Southwest border is over — for now.

BP SUV watches the border along Mexico. A mobile surveillance to

Border Patrol surveillance along the Mexican border in Arizona. (Customs and Border Protection photo by Josh Denmark)

Congress passed a compromise spending bill Thursday (February 14) that will prevent a second government shutdown — which Trump threatened if he did not get sufficient funding to extend a wall along the border with Mexico. The legislation, passed by both the Senate and House of Representatives, allocates just $1.375 billion to build 55 miles of barrier in the Rio Grande Valley, according to The Hill newspaper. Trump had sought $5.7 billion for hundreds of miles of concrete wall and fencing.

Trump is expected to sign the bill, however, he announced plans to use executive action declare a national state of emergency on the border to finance the wall by-passing congressional restrictions, CNN and other news outlets reported.  

Meanwhile, two Western states’ governors are pulling their National Guard troops out of a military buildup on the border begun last October. Trump’s decision to order forces to the border before the midterm elections was controversial, according to POLITICO. Both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush sent troops to the border during their presidencies.

However, on February 3, the Pentagon announced that Trump had ordered 3,750 troops to the border to join the estimated 4,350 service men and women already deployed.  In a sign of continuing skepticism of that move, POLITICO noted, California Governor  Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he would halt the deployment of his state’s National Guard.

Marines string razor wire

Marines string concertina wire at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in California in 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sergeant Rubin J. Tan)

A week earlier, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced she was withdrawing about 100 New Mexico National Guard troops from the border buildup, declaring there isn’t a security crisis at the state’s border.

An online petition to impeach Lujan Grisham for treason has garnered more than 30,000 signatures. But Brian Egolf, the speaker of the New Mexico House of Representatives says there is no way he would initiate impeachment proceedings against the governor for withdrawing all but about dozen National Guard soldiers from the border. Egolf, a Democrat like Lujan Grisham, holds the authority to initiate House investigations, CBS News reported.

February 14, 2019 at 11:59 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

LATIN AMERICA/HOMELAND SECURITY: Trump Taps Ex-SOUTHCOM Chief to head DHS.

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.

ltgen-kelly

Kelly in 2012 before he took over SOUTHCOM and got his fourth star. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

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.

 

December 7, 2016 at 8:52 pm Leave a comment

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