The news from the Pentagon that the US is re-establishing its Fourth Naval Fleet in the Caribbean, ostensibly to "build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts" unfortunately shows that the days a US military threat to Latin America are far from over.
Furthermore, it underlines the need for the countries of Latin America to develop a new, independent military doctrine that replaces the US-backed and developed ‘National Security Doctrine’ which provided the rationale for so much terror and bloodshed throughout the region between the 1950s and 1990s, and which subordinated Latin American security interests to those of their northern neighbour. (The Fourth Fleet has not been used in the region since 1950.)
The re-establishment of the Fourth Fleet comes at a time when much of Latin America is emerging from under the imperial shadow, with Paraguay being the latest country to elect a left-wing leader. Paraguay joins a growing list of countries seeking an independent, more egalitarian and just path towards development, in direct contrast to the decades of US backed dictatorships and neoliberalism. This growing independence is a direct threat to North American domination of the region, traditionally seen as its strategic resource reserve and ‘backyard’.
The nuclear aircraft carrier-equipped US Navy fleet will provide an offshore base from which to observe, threaten, coordinate and possibly launch black operations. This is the role that similar naval groups have carried out in the past, in the Persian Gulf, against Nicaragua, and off the coasts of Brazil and Chile. They can also be rapidly expanded to provide air and logistical support for larger operations, such as the invasions of Grenada and Panama in 1983 and 1989 respectively. This is the reality that underlies the talk of ‘counter-narcotics operations’ and ‘cooperation with regional partners’ and it is the reality that the governments of Latin America must prepare for.
The creation of this fleet does nothing to lower the tensions caused by the Colombian regimes attack into Ecuadorean territory, and will in fact heighten the threat of war in the region. Colombian aggression is underpinned by its close alliance with the United States, an alliance secured through the huge amounts of US military aid which sustain the current Colombian government. Colombia already has the largest, and most advanced military in the region, and with US Navy air and logistical support will have a vastly increased offensive potential, something that is a direct threat to stability in the region.
The target of this threatening move is without doubt the government of President Chavez in Venezuela. The democratic Bolivarian revolution is at the heart of the new independence movement in Latin America, and has, through its example, inspired millions throughout the region to challenge the neoliberal economic model. With its revolutionary project to construct a 21st century socialism, Venezuela challenges US ideological hegemony, and thus threatens to undermine and destroy the dominance of US championed free-market capitalism, which in turn threatens to end the days of US access to cheap raw materials extracted from Latin America.
Although Venezuela is currently the biggest US target in the region, it is not the only one. Cuba still stands defiantly challenging US hegemony having withstood 50 years of naked aggression in every sphere. Bolivia has elected the continent’s first indigenous president, promising to end 500 years of exploitation and subjugation. Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina have all elected left of centre governments that are in some measure challenging US hegemony in the region.
The US has re-established the Fourth Fleet in a direct move against this new ‘pink tide’. A threat, and a statement of intent to remind all those in the region that the imperial master may be occupied elsewhere, but his reach is still long. As ever, where there is an imperial power, there are imperial servants, with no greater one than Alvaro Uribe of Colombia who sits at the head of the most bloodthirsty government that Latin America has seen since the vicious, genocidal wars waged against the peoples of Guatemala and El Salvador. The Fourth Fleet is doubtless also meant to shore up this US ally, and ensure that he can continue to provoke and destabilise the region. Such provocation could be used as the rationale for a direct US intervention in the region, as was the premise in the NATO exercise "Operation Balboa", which rehearsed the invasion of western Venezuela by combined NATO forces with Panamanian and Colombian assistance.
Such a possibility underlines the need, now more than ever, for Latin American governments to develop a common defensive strategy. For too long the nations of what Marti called ‘Nuestra America’ (Our America) and Bolivar the ‘Patria Grande’, have remained divided, easy prey for foreign governments and corporations. Latin American militaries have been blinded by a vision of patriotism and sovereignty that only understands borders, and wilfully ignores the fact that there is no ‘patria’ beyond the people, and that there is no sovereignty when natural resources can be plundered in the interests of the wealthy few at home and abroad. The first steps towards this unity are being taken on a political and economic level by the establishment of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), and must be reinforced by an integrated defensive doctrine.
Given the history of US intervention in Latin America, with direct military interventions in Nicaragua, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Grenada, Panama and with covert interventions in Honduras, Guatemela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile and Brazil among others, it is not unreasonable for a future integrated doctrine also to be focused on resisting further interventions from the ‘Giant of the North’. The only way that this can be done is by developing a doctrine based around the concept of ‘the people in arms’, which was successful in defeating French and US interventions in Vietnam. This is the basis of Venezuela’s military reorganisation.
Such a re-alignment of Latin American militaries away from serving foreign interests is bound to be resisted fiercely by the United States government, and by its military industrial complex, who will doubtless categorise it as ‘threatening stability’ and being ‘anti-democratic’. As regional unity grows and coheres, it is likely that the US will ever more aggressively seek to sow discord and conflict among neighbours. Already the US has supported and helped plan a coup in Venezuela, has been accused of supporting the secession movement in Bolivia, and of assisting Colombia’s illegal and aggressive attack on Ecuadorean territory. It is highly unlikely that interference will end here, with the US already talking about extending the economic blockade of Cuba to include Venezuela.
The development of a capacity to resist aggression is not synonymous with the militarization of the region. Effective defence against external intervention is vital for economic and social development. Together with new visions of development based upon the concepts of solidarity and sustainability, a regional defensive doctrine forms part of the ongoing efforts to achieve true sovereignty. For too long the peoples of Latin America have been the victims of violence and terror, inflicted upon them by local elites in alliance with the US. It is time that they were able to stand up, and embark upon the construction of their societies independently and without fear.