THE IMPERIAL REACHES OF THE SOUTHERN COMMAND IN LATIN AMERICA, PART I
By: Gilberto López y Rivas
On February 15 of this year, Admiral Kurt W. Tidd, chief of the United States Southern Command, testified before that country’s Senate Armed Services Committee, and elaborated an unclassified document at that meeting, in which he presents his position with respect to conditions, actors and current or possible variables that affect or are related to the security and defense of the United States in the area “under his responsibility,” which encompasses 31 countries in Central America, South America and the Caribbean. The document exhibits –behind the rhetoric of the supposed defense of democracy, humanitarian aid, the fight against drugs and terrorism– the familiar imperialist perspectives historically rooted in Manifest Destiny and, in the case of our continent, in the so-called Monroe Doctrine that, reconstituted and renovated, feeds the ideologies and imaginaries of the current governing groups that consider the United States as the “only indispensable nation,” and assume for themselves the right of overt or clandestine military intervention on the planetary ambit to protect its strategic interests and its national security; that is, the role of the world’s police. The chief of the Southern Command tells the Senate Committee: “Every day, our men and women work to back our approaches in the South and to build a regional security network starting with inclusive associations and based on principles. […] We depend on this network to help maintain our own security and to defend our land in depth.” However, he complains that diplomatic efforts and those in favor of “development” for maintaining that network are insufficient, and that the perception of their allies and competitors in the area [China, Russia, Iran, Korea] is that the United States is not fulfilling its commitments, renouncing its strategic position and without seriously taking into account the region’s challenges. Therefore, he argues that security risks must be considered in order to continue prevail as a hegemonic power in this hemisphere and to prevent a crisis from diminishing the ability of the United States to face other “even more important” commitments in the international ambit. He warns that it’s not desirable for his country to open “our southern flank” to a varied range of vulnerabilities. The admiral discovers that Latin America is a region of contrasting tendencies, both positive and worrisome at the same time, with democratic, modern, diverse societies, with rising middle classes and with “capable and professional militaries.” these societies still confront “governing challenges” [sic], which include political corruption, unachieved development challenges, and shocking levels of criminal violence, which create permissive spaces for illicit activities of all kinds: global extremism has established a narrow base among the Muslim population of Latin America, recruiting activists to carry out attacks. Insecurity and economic difficulties continue causing an increase in migration and, of course, he emphasizes Venezuela as a permanent risk because of its “internal instability,” which can cause significant regional upheavals. Within this context, the military man turned into a high-flying social scientist distinguishes a combination of evidence and threats that come from state and non-state actors that form networks, like those of traffickers in drugs, arms and human beings; terrorist sympathizers and militants, as well as those of money launderers, who –he points out– use common entry routes into the United States and conduct all kinds of operations in that country’s territory. Curiously, this military chief considers that organized crime cartels act like any transnational corporation that diversifies, de-centralizes and distributes franchises to perpetrate their criminal actions “without borders.” According to the admiral, these networks and their cumulative effects, play a cardinal role in the strengthening of the corruption and insecurity, and in the erosion of citizens’ faith in democracy and basic democratic values, especially in countries with the highest levels of of criminal violence. At the same time, Admiral Tidd warns that his country faces the traditional challenges from state actors, and laments that China, Russia and Iran are courting Latin American and Caribbean most strategically important associates and supporting anti-U.S. authoritarian regimes. As for China’s part, its advance and economic influence in the region is concerning, as well as its technology that can be used in the collection of intelligence. The each time more visible role of Russia in the hemisphere is also disturbing, given Russia’s cyber and intelligence abilities. It equally disturbs the imperial ways that Moscow attempts to “falsely” change the ambit of Latin American information through its Spanish information media and, of course, doesn’t grace any US military personnel with progressive access to ports and logistical spaces, “sanctuaries,” in Cuba and Venezuela and, in sum, “a projection of the visible force [of Russia] in the Western Hemisphere causes alarm.” The possible illicit activities of North Korea in “their region” disquiets military personnel, just like the expansion of diplomatic and trade relations with Iran.
But, the “threats” to the United States not only come from extra-hemispheric state actors. Tidd points out that in the field of national security: “Cuba has demonstrated a clear intention of attacking US interests, through activities of collection, vigilance and counter-intelligence in the region’s countries. This Spring’s planned political transition [he’s referring to the Díaz-Canel’s arrival to the presidency], doesn’t seem that it will change Cuba’s point of view, in the sense of diminishing the influence of military men [in the government] or altering the continuous cooperation with Russia, China and North Korea, in matters of security, politics and the economy,” Naturally, within the range of threats, we could not fail to mention the “negative influence” of Cuba on Venezuela, notably, according to the admiral, in the intelligence services and the armed forces.
The peoples remain outside of this imperial view of the world, absent their struggles and utopias; they don’t exist as important actors that forge its history, marked by countless invasions and military aggressions of the defenders of the “free world and democracy.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, June 1, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee