Increased U.S. operational capacity in Latin America and the Caribbean

Abel González Santamaría

A joint report recently presented by three influential U.S. research and analysis centers specializing in Western Hemisphere studies – the Center for International Policies (CIP), the Latin America Working Group Education Fund (LAWGEF), and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) – reveals that the U.S. government has favored the deployment of Special Operations Forces in its security policies for the region.

Abran ala puertaAccording to the report, titled Time to Listen: Trends in Security Assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean, these Special Forces are to be more and more utilized in Latin America for training tasks, intelligence gathering and other military missions, within the category of the old anti-drugs schemes. These missions fulfill functions which go beyond the mere provision of training and allow units to familiarize themselves with the terrain, culture and key officials in countries where they might operate some day. It notes that they also allow U.S. personnel to gather confidential information on their host countries.

The study adds that, to a large extent, what is happening is not reflected in major budgets, but comes cloaked in a veil of mystery, lackluster reports to Congress and the public, and a migration of program management from the State Department to the Department of Defense.

The capacity of the United States to go out in defense of human rights is undermined by its own precedents, plagued with defects in the human rights context: non-fulfillment of the promise to close the Guantánamo base, the super-extensive vigilance programs, and the policy of using drone aircraft which justifies extra-judicial executions.

These three research centers agree that the nature of U.S. participation in the region is changing. Instead of building bases, deploying the Fourth Fleet or launching major aid packages such as Plan Colombia or the Mérida Initiative, the involvement of the U.S. armed forces is becoming more agile and flexible, but even less transparent.

As can be seen, this news is not encouraging for the Latin America and Caribbean peoples. This readjustment corresponds to current U.S. strategy of “covert intervention,” of low public visibility, which allows for a minor presence of land forces and the greater use of drone aircraft, cybernetic attacks and special operation forces with the capacity for rapid and flexible movement.

It is an evident change of tactic to mask a military agenda, previously rehearsed with the “good neighbor” policy of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration (1933-1945), which made it possible to maintain a degree of control, visibly less interfering, over Latin American armies, but in practice prioritized covert actions of destabilization during a period of economic depression and wars, very similar to the current situation.

Hence the grand imperial strategy is being maintained intact.


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