Posts tagged ‘Mexico’

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

SHAKO: Buffalo Soldiers UPDATE

Remembering the Buffalo Soldiers.

Buffalo Soldiers-2 10th Cav

The Buffalo Soldiers from A Company, 10th U.S. Cavalry regroup to move out after battle. Colonel Benjamin H. Grierson (center) issues orders to Lieutenant Henry O. Flipper (left), the first black graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, to keep the Chiricahua Apache renegade Victorio bottled up near the Rio Grande. (Photo courtesy http://www.donstivers.com via U.S. Corps of Army Engineers, Southwest Division)

UPDATES and CORRECTS: To add material about Buffalo Soldiers serving as early park rangers, include a photo of Buffalo Soldiers in World War II and to CORRECT that Buffalo Soldier units did not fight in World War I and only the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments still existed in World War II.–the Editor

As February and Black History month draws to a close, here at 4GWAR we’ve been wracking our brains trying to decide how best to honor the month and the people it celebrates. Should we focus on individuals like Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Henry Johnson, or Dorie Miller, the first African American awarded the Navy Cross for his heroism at Pearl Harbor? Or should we examine a unit like the Tuskegee Airmen of the Second Word War or the Harlem Hellfighters of World War I?

In doing our research we came across four all-black units, the 9th and 10th Cavalry regiments and the 24th and 25th Infantry regiments, in the segregated Army of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Collectively, they were known as the “Buffalo Soldiers.” Created right after the Civil War, these four regiments at times battled or protected Native Americans on the plains, deserts and mountains of the American West. They charged up San Juan Hill in 1898. Five members of the 10th Cavalry were awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery above and beyond the call of duty in Cuba.  and fought insurgents in the Philippines in the early 20th Century after the United States annexed the islands in 1899. They also chased Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa with General John “Black Jack” Pershing in the 1916-1917 Mexican Punitive Expedition.

Buffalo_soldiers1

Buffalo soldiers of the 25th Infantry, some wearing buffalo robes, at Fort Keogh, Montana. (Library of Congress)

None of the regiments served as units in France during World War I, although some veteran non-commissioned officers were dispatched to other segregated units that served on the Western Front. The two cavalry regiments were disbanded in World War II but the 24th Infantry and 25th Infantry, both served in the Pacific. In 1948, President Harry Truman issued an executive order eliminating racial segregation and discrimination in America’s armed forces; the last all-black units were disbanded during the early 1950s.

Between 1891 and 1913, Buffalo Soldiers served during the summer months in Sequoia and Yosemite national parks, in effect as the nation’s first park rangers, introducing the broad brimmed campaign hat that is now part of the standard park ranger uniform, according to historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr.   Their duties in the parks included fighting wildfire, curbing poaching of the park’s wildlife, ending illegal grazing of livestock on federal lands, and constructing roads, trail and other infrastructure, according to the National Park Service.

Buffalo soldiers WWII

Troops of the 24th Infantry, attached to the Americal Division, wait to advance behind a tank assault on the Japanese, along Empress Augusta Bay on Bougainville in 1944. (U.S. Army archive photo) 

An 1866 Act of Congress created six peacetime regiments of exclusively black soldiers. Later, these regiments were melded into four—two infantry and two cavalry—colloquially referred to as the Buffalo Soldiers. There are a few competing theories as to how they got this name, but as the National Museum of African American History and Culture notes, the soldiers “considered the name high praise.”) Throughout their history, the soldiers had a rocky relationship with the American government they served.

The regiments faced extreme and sometimes deadly racism. Especially in some towns near where they were based. Buffalo Soldiers were attacked during racial disturbances in Texas at Rio Grande City in 1899, Brownsville in 1906, and Houston in 1917. The regiments were first commanded only by whites, and the rank and file often faced extreme racial prejudice from the Army establishment, according to the museum. “Many officers, including George Armstrong Custer, refused to command black regiments, even though it cost them promotions in rank.

One who did, was Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a music teacher-turned Civil War cavalry officer (the 1959 John Wayne movie “The Horse Soldiers,” was based loosely on the long- range cavalry raid into Mississippi he led in 1863). Grierson organized the 10th Cavalry in 1866 at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Another officer was then-Lieutenant John J. Pershing who took command of a troop of the 10th Cavalry in 1895.  His nickname of “Black Jack,” stems from his service with the 10th Cavalry, although “Black” was a euphemism for the “N” word, which resentful white officers and West Point cadets attached to Pershing’s name. Tenth Cavalry troops were with Pershing’s expedition into Mexico to capture or kill Pancho Villa.  They participated in one of the last cavalry battles fought by U.S. troops at  Carrizal.

SHAKO

SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.

February 28, 2019 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

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

SHAKO: U.S. Entered WWI 100 Years Ago Today

Over there.

On this date in 1917, the United States entered what was then known as the Great War.

The_US_Army_in_Britain,_1917-1918_Q30005

A column of American troops passing Buckingham Palace, London, 1917. (Photo: Imperial War Museum collection)

After avoiding entanglement in the European bloodbath that erupted in August 1914, America finally got involved when Germany resumed unconditional submarine warfare — threatening freedom of the seas — and tried to win over Mexico as an ally by promising a return of lands lost in the Mexican-American War of 1846.

Congress declared war on Germany just two months after U.S. troops under General John J. Pershing returned from a punitive expedition into Mexico to catch or kill the rebel general and bandit Pancho Villa. When Congress declared war of April 6, 1917, the U.S. army was still small and hadn’t fought a nation state’s army (Spain) since 1898.

While 4GWAR won’t be following the centennial of World War I as closely as we did the bicentennial of the War of 1812, SHAKO will be checking in from time to time to ponder the implications of America’s involvement in an overseas war that saw the introduction of tank warfare, poison gas and the widespread use of the airplane, submarine and machine gun.

94th_Aero_Squadron_-_Group

Pilots of the 94th Aero Squadron at Foucaucourt Aerodrome, France, November 1918. The top U.S. air ace of WWI, Eddie Rickenbacker (center), leans against a SPAD XIII fighter plane bearing the squadron’s “Hat in the Ring” symbol.

World War I also saw veteran units like the Marine Corps and the 69th New York Infantry Regiment add to their glory while new outfits like the “Harlem Hellfighters” and the “Hat in the Ring Squadron” added their names to the history books.

In the coming months leading up to November 11, 2018, we hope to introduce you to some interesting people and units like the “One Man Army,” the “Lost Battalion,” “Arizona Balloon Buster,” and the “Rock of the Marne.” Meanwhile, to get you started, here are some informative websites about World War One and the American Expeditionary Force. The U.S. Army Center of Military History, The Great War and the U.S. World War One Centennial Commission.

SHAKOSHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point New York.

 

April 6, 2017 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

LATIN AMERICA: Amazon Militias; Replacing Mexican Military with Police

Guarding the Rainforest.

Brazil (CIA World Fact book)

Brazil
(CIA World Fact book)

Illegal logging in Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is down — thanks largely to armed militias of indigenous peoples guarding their reserves, which make up about a fifth of the Amazon region.

Armed with shotguns and other assorted weaponry, these ragtag guardians have stopped illegal loggers, tied them up, torched their trucks and tractors and chased them off, the Washington Post reports in a front page story Wednesday (October 7).

As a result, such logging has sharply declined in these territories. But the indigenous groups have faced reprisal attacks and death threats for their actions, raising fears of more violence in an area known for its lawlessness, according to the Post. In a rare visit to the reserves permitted by the indigenous tribes, Washington Post journalists found that many residents support the militias. But others are uneasy about relying on informal armed groups to resolve a problem that should fall to the Brazilian government.

The clashes highlight the continuing grave threat to the Amazon, the world’s biggest remaining rain forest, which plays a crucial role in maintaining the world’s climate and biodiversity. From 2005 to 2012, deforestation plunged in Brazil, as the government increased its conservation efforts and cracked down on illegal loggers. But since then, the numbers have begun to creep up again. In 2014 alone, almost 2,000 square miles of Amazon rain forest were cleared by farmers, loggers and others the Post said.

The Brazilian government sees the rain forest and the waters of the Amazon as key natural resources that needs to be guarded as much as oil reserves off the Atlantic Coast of Brazil

A 2014 report by the World Resource Institute, a Washington-based think tank, found that rural communities and indigenous peoples across the world have government-recognized rights to forests containing 37.7 billion tons of carbon—equivalent to 29 times the annual emissions from all passenger vehicles in the world. In total, deforestation and other land uses represents 11 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.

In Brazil alone, the report stated, strong legal rights could contribute to preventing 27.2 million hectares of deforestation by 2050, translating to 12 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions that don’t get into the atmosphere. That’s the same as about three years’ worth of carbon dioxide emissions from all Latin American and Caribbean countries.

President Dilma Rousseff has promised to reduce illegal logging in the Amazon by 2030. She and President Obama in a visit to Washington over the summer, have agreed to work more closely on curbing deforestation of the Amazon and boosting renewable energy.

Meanwhile, a Brazilian audit court has ruled that Rousseff broke the law in managing last year’s budget, according to the BBC.

The government was accused of borrowing money illegally from state banks to make up for budget shortfalls. The opposition says the court’s ruling – which reports to Brazil’s Congress – paves the way for impeachment proceedings against Ms. Rousseff, the BBC said. She was re-elected less than a year ago but has record low popularity ratings, according to the BBC. The Brazilian government says it would challenge Wednesday’s ruling in the Supreme Court

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Bringing Back Police.

Mexico map (CIA World Factbook)

Mexico map
(CIA World Factbook)

The United Nations’ top human rights official wants the Mexican government to set a timetable for replacing military personnel in law enforcement duties  with well-trained police.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein said Wednesday (October 7) that the government should return soldiers to their barracks because military forces aren’t designed to do police work, the Associated Press reported.

Mexican soldiers and marines began leading the fight against cartels after many police units proved too corrupt or inefficient to take them on. Zeid was scathing in his assessment of how Mexico’s police, judicial and investigative system have failed Mexicans, leading to 26,000 disappearances and thousands of killings that remain unsolved, the AP said.

Zeid said Mexico’s defense secretary, General Salvador Cienfuegos, told him the army doesn’t desire a policing role. But Zeid added that better police forces have to be trained before Mexico’s army withdraws or the military will leave a vacuum.

 

 

 

October 9, 2015 at 12:04 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: On the Border, Gaza Fallout, Argentina Bonds, Venezuela Spy Chief

National Guard, Immigration Bill.

Border Patrol agents observe an Arizona National Guardsman training in the desert. (U.S. Army photo by

Border Patrol agents observe an Arizona National Guardsman training in 2010.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill)

Texas Governor Rick Perry has ordered up to 1,000 National Guardsmen to the border with Mexico to help deal with the crisis of thousands of children crossing over from Mexico.

More than 57,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have crossed illegally since October, reports USA Today, noting the influx of children has overwhelmed federal detention centers and Border Patrol offices.

The state acion is estimated to cost Texas taxpayers $12 million a month once it gets underway. No starting date has been set yet. Most of the children are reportedly fleeing  drug trafficking and gang violence in their home countries.

Meanwhile, at immigration bill meant to deal with the illegal child immigrant issue is on life suport on Capitol Hill. On Thursday, House Speaker John Boehner  called off a vote on a border assistance bill until Friday (August 1). The day Congress was supposed to take off for a month-long recess, according  to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. And a vote on the Senate version of the bill was blocked until after August.

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Gaza Fallout in Latin America

The fighting in Gaza beween the Israel Defense Force and Hamas may be a world away, but it is starting to have diplomatic repercussions in Latin America.

This week El Salvador became the fifth Latin American country to recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv and not because of safety and security fears. San Salvador recaled its envoy to protest the  IDF’s continued operations in Gaza and the disastrous effect it is having on civilians.

Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Peru have previously called their ambassadors, according to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz. Israel’s Foreign Ministry expressed deep disappointment with what it called  with their “hasty decision” to call diplomats hom for consultation. Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the ministry, told Haaretz that such actions “constitutes encouragement for  Hamas, a group recognized as a terrorist organization by many countries around the world.”

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Bond Battle

Argentina’s rocky economy may be in for another shock as the country is on the verge of defaulting on billions of dollars of government bonds. If Buenos Aires doesn’t  pay up, it will be country’s second default in 13 years.

Argentina has been battling a group of hedge funds since it defaulted on its bond obligations in 2001. Argentina offered new bonds worth much less than the orginal ones  but has been its obligations on them. A small group of bondholders want to be paid in full and the Argentine government has resisted. But a judge in New York has ruled  that banks using Argentina’s money to pay the holders of the lesser bonds would be in violation of a previous court order.

The dispute, which weighs heavilly on the Argentine economy, has most likely “pushed up borrowing costs for Argentine companies and depleted economic confidence in a country  that is already facing high inflation and sagging growth,” the New York Times explains.

*** *** ***

Venezuelan Official Faces Drug Charges

Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia image

Aruba, Colombia and Venezuela: Wikipedia

The former head of Venezuela’s military intelligence is accused of corruption and drug dealing by the United States. Hugo Carvajal was arrested on request
of the U.S. State Department when he got off a plane in Aruba last week.

But officials in the Caribbean Island nation had to let him go — because he had diplomatic immunity — and sent him back to Venezuela even though the U.S. wanted to extradite him. Indictments unsealed after his arrest accused him of being on the payroll of drug traffickers and coordinating massive cocaine shipments, the New York Times reported.

The indictments “open a window onto accusations of ties between Venezuelan military and law enforcement officers and Colombian drug traffickers, a connection that officials in Washington  have long warned about and that has been roundly dismissed by authorities” in Venezuela, according to the Times.

Carvajal was traveling on a diplomatic passport as Venezuela’s new consul in Aruba. He was a long-time confidant of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, according to the Latin American Herald Tribune.

August 1, 2014 at 1:14 am Leave a comment

LAT AM REVIEW: Mexican Vigilantes, Ecuador’s Drone, Colombian Ceasefire Ends

Soldiers vs Vigilantes vs Drug Gangs

The Mexican government’s attempts to quell violence between vigilantes battling drug gangs in the southwesterrn state of Michoacan have turned deadly in a confrontation between the military and civilians.

Mexican military forces in Michoacan state in 2007 (Photo by Diego Fernandez via Wikipedia)

Mexican military forces in Michoacan state in 2007
(Photo by Diego Fernandez via Wikipedia)

There are contradictory reports on the number of casualties in the town of Antunez where soldiers were reported to have opened fire early Tuesday (January 14) on an unarmed crowd blocking the street. The Associated Press is reporting that its reporters saw the bodies two men said to have died in the incident. AP journalists said they also spoke with the family of a third man reportedly killed in the same incident.

The Los Angeles Times reported that 12 people were said to have died in the clash, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma. The self-defense groups began organizing last year to protect local people from the drug gang known as the Knights Templar, who were extorting and otherwise terrorizing residents of Tierra Caliente, an important farming region west of Mexico City.

Local citizens said they had to arm themselves because federal troops failed to guarantee their security. On Monday (January 13) Mexico’s interior minister, Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, urged the vigilantes to lay down their arms, the BBC reported.

The Knights Templar, who control much of the methamphetamine trade to the United States, say the vigilantes have sided with a rival gang, the New Generation cartel. But the self-defense groups fiercely deny that.

— — —

Ecuador’s First Drone

Ecuador map from CIA World Factbook

Ecuador map from CIA World Factbook

Ecuador has developed its first domestically made unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).  Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa revealed the country’s first drone on local television Saturday (January 11), according to the Russian television network, RT (Russia Today).

The drone, called the UAV-Gavilan (Spanish for hawk), cost half a million dollars, a significant savings for Ecuador — which, 2007 paid $20 million for six Israeli-made UAVs, according to the Associated Press.

The gasoline-powered, carbon fiber and wood UAV was designed by the Ecuadorian Air Force to help the country, which borders both the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, fight drug trafficking, Correa said. He added that the Gavilan tracked a ship loaded with drugs for six hours before authorities intercepted the vessel.

Its video cameras and sensors will help the Euadorian Air Force monitor the country’s borders and hard-to-reach areas, like the Amazon rainforest, as well as assisting investigations. Ecuador plans to produce four of the UAVs for itself and then sell others to interested countries in Latin America.

— — —

FARC Ends Ceasefire

Colombia’s Marxist rebels announced  Wednesday (January 15) that they were ending their unilateral holiday ceasefire with government forces.

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

Colombia map by CIA World Factbook

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — widely known by their Spanish acronym FARC –announced in Havana, Cuba, where it has been in peace negotiations with the government that it was ending the ceasefire it declared December 15, Reuters reported.

The rebels, who have battled the government in Bogota for five decades, accused government armed forces and police units of pursuing “aggressions and provocations.”s

theThe FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, declared a one-month ceasefire on December 15 and said in a statement issued on Wednesday, “we lived up to our word… despite permanent aggressions and provocations by the government’s armed forces and police units.”

While the FARC has repeatedly called for both sides to end hostilities, President Juan Manuel Santos has refused to agree. The rebels previously observed another unilateral cease-fire that lasted two months, the Associated Press reported.

The FARC has been fighting the government in a brutal guerrilla war that has claimed more than 200,000 lives in jungle and urban attacks. The revolt began as a peasant movement seeking land reform but in recent years the FARC — branded a terrorist organization by the United States — is reported to have aligned itself with Colombian drug cartels, obtaining much of its funding through narcotics sales. The FARC is the oldest active guerrilla army — estimated to number 8,000 — in the Western Hemisphere..

January 15, 2014 at 2:40 pm 2 comments

LATIN AMERICA: Mexican Drug Lord Captured

Zetas Kingpin

The leader of the notorious Mexican drug gang, the Zetas, has been captured by the Mexican military near the border with Texas, officials announced late Monday (July 15).

(U.S. State Department)

(U.S. State Department)

Miguel Trevino Morales was wanted by Mexican and U.S.. authorities. Both countries posted multi-million dollar rewards for him. Known as Z-40, he was captured by Mexican Marines using a helicopter, who intercepted him in a pickup truck outside the border city of Nuevo Laredo, according to the Associated Press. Morales and two others, believed to be an accountant and a bodyguard, were taken into custody along with $2 million in cash and eight guns.

Trevino Morales is the highest-ranking crime boss taken down since President Eneique Pena Nieto took office in December, according to the BBC. More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence since December 2006.

Pena Nieto promised to change the policy of the previous government by tackling cartels through law enforcement on a local level rather than the capture of big-name targets. His predecessor, Felipe Calderon, had deployed the army across the country and pursued cartel leaders. That policy eliminated many senior criminal figures, but it also created power vacuums that helped fuel the violence.

The Zetas have been linked to some of the most violent crimes in Mexico’s battle with drug cartels, including massacres of immigrants passing through Mexico on their way to the United States and a casino fire that killed 52 people in Monterrey in 2011.

The Zetas originally were deserters from Mexico’s special operations forces hired as bodyguards and enforcers by the Gulf Cartel. But they split off to form their own gang in 2007 and have terrified Mexico –especially along the U.S. border — with unbelievable violence and brutality – including torture, beheadings and massacres, the Los Angeles Times reported.

July 16, 2013 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Border Security surge; Nominee for FBI Chief [UPDATE]

More Border Agents?

If a compromise deal on pending immigration legislation holds up, it would double the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. But according to Reuters, some officials question the benefits of the $50 billion pricetag for the boost from 21,000 to 40,000 border security agents.

Customs and Border Protection photo

Customs and Border Protection photo

In addition to the federal agent surge and completion of a 700-mile-long border fence, the compromise would also include $3.2 billion for a high tech border surveillance plan – including unmanned aircraft, infrared ground sensors and long range thermal imaging cameras, the New York Times reported.

James Comey tapped for FBI Post

[Updates with Comey nominated, praised by Obama, adds photo and link to 2008 UAV demonstration for FBI]

As predicted, President Obama formally nominated James Comey – a former high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration – to be the nation’s next FBI director.

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

President Obama announced he is picking James Comey (left) to replace retiring FBI Director William Muller. (White House video screenshot)

At a White House announcement in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Comey’s integrity — without going into specifics of his opposition, when Comey was Deputy U.S. Attorney General, to the continuation of a warantless eavesdropping program that he believed was  unconstitutional. Comey threatened to resign in opposition to the move. President George W. Bush later backed Comey’s position.

“This is a 10-year assignment.  I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey,” Obama said, calling for the Senate to “act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”

As a U.S. attorney in New York, Comey successfully prosecuted more than a dozen men for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.

If he is confirmed, Comey, 52, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan and areas north of New York City, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years. Comey’s nomination has been expected since last month when news reports indicated he had emerged as the top candidate.

Obama also praised the outgoing FBI director. “Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots,” the president said, adding: “Countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.”

Earlier this week, the current FBI director told Congress that while the FBI has used drones in its investigations, it has been rare and only for surveillance purposes.

According to NBC, Director Robert Muller acknowledged that the FBI used drones in investigative practices but said the agency is working to establish better guidelines for their use.

Back in 2008, when your 4GWAR editor was working at Aviation Week, we went down to Quantico, Virginia to see a demonstration for FBI officials of a catapult-launched Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle. You can see a short video of the launch and recovery here.

June 20, 2013 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

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