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Column 102912 Brewer

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Passive U.S. Agenda in Latin America is Becoming Costly

By Jerry Brewer

If there is an underlying ideological plan or program of proposed action by a current or new U.S. administration for Latin America in 2013, it is a best kept secret. In fact, the last four years could be simply called so covert that absolutely no one has a clue.

Still, the successes of the U.S. Southern Command, CIA, and drug enforcement operators in Central America and Mexico are well-documented.  There is no doubt that Mexico and the northern cone nations of Central America have received training, support and increased intelligence sharing after years of distrusting Mexican policing officials and a reliable perception of police corruption.

Under President George W. Bush, Mexico's drug-trafficking organizations were labeled "a threat to regional security and to US national security." President Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon signed the Merida Initiative in October 2007. This action "officially launched new US efforts to improve ‘regional security' through counternarcotic aid programs in Mexico, and, to a lesser degree, in Central America and the Caribbean."

Yet today, those regions are becoming less secure and less safe, and the murdering carnage continues to set new records as fragmented narcoterrorists and other transnational organized criminals scramble to confront remaining rivals, control territory, and challenge the rule of law.

The truth is that there has been a myopic vision, which has prevented policy makers from seeing much beyond their own mutual porous borders, and thus forced merely selective and reactive actions as the criminal insurgents have penetrated borders at will to move contraband, kill with impunity, and escape into neighboring nations such as Guatemala and Honduras to rest and recruit new members.

However, a more strategic and proactive vision was also needed much further south.

In recent years much of the progressive expansion of turmoil, extremism, terror and inhumanity, in South America and to the north, has been a slow, methodical and organized global insurgency of narcoterrorism and revolutionary ideology.

Much of this can be blamed on the complacency exhibited by some U.S. officials after leftist President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela accused U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents of spying, and kicked the DEA out of Venezuela after years of very successful interdiction efforts.

Chavez's leftist friend and neighbor, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, was also quick to end cooperation with U.S. drug officials, which included termination of the agreement to use Manta Air Base, on Ecuador's Pacific coast, for U.S. drug interdiction flights in the region.

Bolivia's leftist President Evo Morales joined both Chavez and Correa, as he too kicked the DEA out of his country.

In 2005 the U.S. government accused three high-ranking Venezuelan officials of aiding Colombian rebels and protecting drug shipments.  In later years reports revealed that U.S. officials believed "a high level of corruption within the Venezuelan government, military, and other law enforcement and security forces contributes to the permissive environment." Another revealing report indicated "concerns that Venezuela has extended a ‘lifeline' to Colombian FARC rebels and other illegal armed groups that rely on drug sales for financing by providing significant support and safe haven along the border."

The failures to monitor and recognize Hugo Chavez's visits and attention to Iran, and his relationship with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- who calls Chavez, "My valiant brother," has led to critical security concerns throughout the hemisphere.

As well, Hezbollah fundraising activities, in the form of "financial transactions," on Margarita Island in Venezuela have been widely reported. Margarita Island is known to be the center of an extensive terrorist financial network, stretching throughout the Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands, and on to Panama.

Hezbollah has had a strong presence and long history of operating in South America, with agents and activities supported by Iran, Lebanon, and Syria.

The current U.S. administration appears to be mute on Iran's strategic interests in Latin America and its expansion across the region. Military deals with Venezuela and a military training school in Bolivia, with suspected Iranian funding, should have been a wakeup call for Washington. Too, the fact that Iran has opened 11 embassies throughout the region should have brought more than just a yawn from U.S. policy makers. It appears that the mood at the top is none of the leftist players, or their actions, are perceived to be threats.

Panama, Colombia and Peru have astutely recognized the critical need to fight narcotrafficking and terrorism, wanting and having asked for solid alliances with the U.S.

But where are the official U.S. responses, plans and actions that recognize the big picture that is continuing to violently terrorize and plague the Americas?


Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at

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