Raúl Zibechi: New US Strategy Threatens Latin America

New US Strategy Threatens Latin America

By: Raúl Zibechi

In April, the United States government launched a potent counter-offensive to recuperate lost ground in a region that continues being vital for its global domination. No one in his right mind could imagine that the empire would let its influence in Latin America dissolve without playing all its cards. In the new world scenario, ruled by economic and financial crisis, and when the Pentagon needs to turn towards the Pacific, its presence on this continent cannot assume only a military profile.

On May 1, General Martin Dempsey, Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, debated the new Defense Strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, pointing out that it not only consists in “rebalancing” the armed forces towards the Asia-Pacific region, as Barack Obama pointed out in January. He defined the necessity of “constructing a network of alliances around the globe” for what will be necessary “to resolve the pending challenges, such as questions related with technology transfer, intelligence exchange and military sales to foreign countries.” (Carnegieendowment.org)

In April the Secretary of Defense, León Panetta, made a South American tour that took him to Colombia, his principal military ally, later to Brazil and finally to Chile, where the Concón military base was just inaugurated. “The proposition for this trip is to participate in consultations with several of our associates in this part of the world and to attempt to foment innovative security alliances in the region” (http://spanish.chile.usembassy.gov).

The Concón base, in Valparaíso province, forms part of that “innovation policy.” It was constructed within 60 days by the Southern Command and Chile’s Navy as an urban warfare training camp, called Military Operations in Urban Territories (MOUT) contemplated in “humanitarian” and preventive missions. In September 2011, the Chilean Minister of Defense, Andrés Allamand, had signed a cooperation agreement that permits “the deployment of US troops on Chilean soil, faced with the eventuality that the national army is surpassed by some emergency situation.” (El Ciudadano, 3/5/12.)

But the climax of Panetta’s mini tour happened in Brazil, the day following the interview with the Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, in which he offered ample technology transference if he opts for the purchase of F-18 Boeing Super Hornet pursuit planes, instead of the Rafale from the French Dassault (Aviation). On April 25, Panetta offered a conference at the War College, in Río de Janeiro, in which he detailed his proposal of broad strategic cooperation between the US and Brazil.

He talked to Brazil’s military elites, business owners and politicians, not to the public at large. He began saying that both countries “find themselves at a critical point of common history” (Defesanet, 25/4/12). “It is the moment for strengthening ourselves in the birth of a new agreement, simultaneously strong and innovative, based on the mutual interests of two countries, as Western powers.” He insinuated that Brazil could come to occupy its longed-for permanent seat on the UN Security Council, but it was not clear.

He called to establish a new dialogue for “transforming the Brazil-US relationship in the area of defense,” involving the emerging nation in inter-national military questions and he assured that bilateral relations are at their best moment since 1945.

In one crucial paragraph it brought up the most thorny aspect of the bilateral relationship: “Brazil is an economic power and cooperation in high technology, which needs to flow in both directions, seems limited by the controls to currently existing exports. Responding to that, we made the decision to free 4, 000 export licenses for Brazil, a level similar to what we have with our best global allies.”

Panetta added that the purchase of the 36 F-18 pursuit planes can “radically transform the relationship between both defense industries” and he concluded by assuring that: “Amorim is expected in Washington shortly to continue the dialogue.”

How should this speech be interpreted? Without a doubt, it is produced at a key and delicate moment. The victory of François Hollande is analyzed in Brazil as an opportunity for strengthening the alliance with France, while China’s presence in the region does not stop growing. Amorim assured months ago that the decision about the purchase of the pursuit planes would be made before the middle of the year, but logically after the French elections. This is the time. Nevertheless, the empire does not usually offer a broad technology transfer for the purchase of three-dozen airplanes. The objective appears more ambitious: the Pentagon makes its “generous” technological and diplomatic offer (the seat on the Security Council) in exchange for a military and strategic submission. In my way of seeing it, it’s blackmail.

The cables revealed by Wikileaks point out that in 2009 the US tried to sabotage the transfer of space and nuclear technology from the Ukraine to Brazil (Defesanet, 13/5/12), two decisive aspects for the emerging country’s strategic autonomy. But Brazil is already developing spatial technology with China and has its own advanced nuclear program. The message is clear: if Brasilia is not subordinate, the military circle will be tighter every day, as the new military base in Chile demonstrates.

It is not simple to anticipate the path that the Brazilian elites will take. For much less, Getulio Vargas was cornered until driving him to suicide. The coming weeks will reveal a good part of the enigma: the delayed decision on the purchase of the pursuit planes will show the reigning state of mind in the country that is proposing to unite the region to speak with the same voice in the world.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Friday, May 18, 2012

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/05/18/opinion/025a2pol

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