Evidence of this is the signing of the AUKUS Treaty (Australia, United Kingdom and United States), the creation of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (QUAD) formed by Australia, India, Japan and the United States, and the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance (United States, United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia) as instruments of NATO’s military expansion in Asia and Oceania.
The same is true in Latin America and the Caribbean, where the United States is embarking on an aggressive expansion plan across all latitudes and longitudes of the region. In three instalments, we would like to provide some data to confirm this assertion.
At the end of last year, the United States had installed 12 military bases in Panama, 12 in Puerto Rico, 9 in Colombia, 8 in Peru, 3 in Honduras, 2 in Paraguay, as well as installations of this type in Aruba, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Cuba (Guantánamo), among other countries, while at the same time orienting its search for total coverage of the region’s land and sea surface.
In Argentine territorial waters and in the Falkland Islands, which were usurped by the United Kingdom, NATO is present in a system of bases on the islands of Ascensión, Santa Elena and Tristán da Acuña that “guards” the entire Atlantic from the north to the Antarctic zone.
According to a US Department of Defence report quoted by the Venezuelan website Misión Verdad, since May 2022 the UK has been forming a “strategic triangle of control” of the southern tip of South America. Nuclear submarines operate south of the Falklands. Moreover, “France and the United States regularly organise joint military exercises in the region”.
Over the last few years, and especially after the arrival of General Laura Richardson as head of the US military’s Southern Command in October 2021, Washington’s levels of aggressive meddling in the region have increased dramatically. This coincided with the arrival in power of Joe Biden, who has implemented an active policy of replacing the State Department’s traditional (and natural) leading role in diplomatic activity with that of the Pentagon, the National Security Council and even the CIA. An increasing number of officials from these bodies are occupying ambassadorial posts in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The US strategy is aimed at strengthening its presence in the region. In perspective, the South Atlantic has become particularly important given its proximity to Antarctica, which is regulated by a treaty that expires in 2048, the Amazon, the planet’s main reserve of oxygen and biodiversity, and the triple frontier where the Guaraní aquifer, the world’s largest water reservoir, is located.
This is what makes sense of the United States’ attempts to reinstate the Cold War in the region, this time against China and Russia. This logic explains the decision to urge six Latin American countries to donate their Russian military equipment to Ukraine, excluding – of course – Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela from this request. Richardson warned that after China, Russia is the US’s number two adversary in the region, stressing its strategic value to the US.
The US general called China a “malign state actor” after 21 of the 31 countries in the region signed up to China’s Belt and Road initiative, while Beijing’s investment in critical infrastructure such as deep-water ports, space research and telecommunications, with 5G networks and Huawei, has increased.
Richardson highlighted the “protective” role that the United States will play in the region because being good neighbours means “looking out for each other”, which “obliges” Washington to take charge of the fight against organised crime networks involved in human trafficking, drug smuggling, unregulated logging and illegal mining, and especially “because it is a region rich in resources and rare earths, with the so-called Lithium Triangle that holds 60% of the world’s reserves (in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile), a metal that is very necessary for technology”.
Likewise, Richardson has said that the United States is interested in oil (given the large reserves found in Guyana and the world’s largest reserves in Venezuela) as well as copper and gold in the region. Equally of concern to the United States is that oxygen and 31% of the Earth’s fresh water is found in the Amazon. For all these reasons – according to her – China, which has become the main trading partner of several countries in the region, should be kept at arm’s length.
This logic is part of the US strategy of “integrated deterrence”, a renewed form of the National Security Doctrine that aims to bring together under the Pentagon’s leadership “all the civilian and military capabilities of government, business, civil society and academia of the United States and all its allies”.
At the 15th Conference of Defence Ministers of the Americas in Brazil in July 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin presented this strategy to his peers from the region. Two months after that, in September, Richardson emphasised it to 14 military chiefs at the South American Defence Conference. The US interest has a regional perspective that has been underpinned by the need for US control since the Monroe Doctrine was enunciated 200 years ago.
But from a global perspective, Latin America’s armed forces constitute a combative potential that cannot be underestimated. In 2018, Brazil had 334,000 active military personnel, Colombia 200,000 and Argentina 51,000. NATO has 3.5 million active military and civilian personnel. According to the think tank CELAG, Brazil and Colombia alone would contribute more assets to NATO than the European members annexed in the 1990s. In this sense, it is worth making a comparison, considering that Argentina, for example, has assets similar to those of Bulgaria (24,800) and the Czech Republic (25,000) combined.
To better understand this situation and the intense imperial activity to control the Latin American and Caribbean space, it is worth reviewing the way in which the intervention of the United States and NATO has been materialising in some countries of the region:
The Master Plan for the Navigability of the Paraguay River is an initiative of the Paraguayan government to “maximise the use of this navigable waterway”, but it was the US ambassador Marc Ostfield who made the announcement. The work is being supported by US capital and will be carried out thanks to the services of the US Army Corps of Engineers, which has caused great concern in Argentina, which considers that such a decision will mean control of the territory by foreign forces. Needless to say, the area is an important part of the La Plata Basin, the fifth largest freshwater reserve in the world.
Likewise, Washington does not cease in its long-standing intentions to install a military base in the Triple Border (Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil), under the pretext of combating international terrorism and drug trafficking. In this context, attempts to militarise the region and change the ‘rules of the game’ so that the US can establish territories under its permanent control are considered extremely dangerous in Argentina. Likewise, some local political leaders have expressed preoccupation that their region is being drawn into a logic of confrontation between the US and China.
Although the Paraguayan government has said that the project involves ‘cooperation with US specialists’, including river studies, but not military cooperation, Asunción’s total subordination to the US casts doubt on this assertion. In geopolitical terms, there is also the fact that Paraguay is the only country in South America that does not have relations with China.
From the Argentine perspective, Asunción’s decision to attract the US armed forces to advance the navigability of the Paraguay River is now related to the growing food trade, which, in the context of the war in Ukraine, has become strategic.
The purpose of the waterway is to allow the navigation of deep-draft vessels with large volumes of charge 365 days a year, rectifying the route and eliminating islands and other obstacles. The presence of US Army specialists gives the project a very different character from what was originally presented as a civilian project.
On the other hand, the United States has been preoccupied concerning the fact that the Argentine state is proposing a new tender for the dredging of the Paraná River (which receives water from Paraguay), and some of the companies that will try to win it are of Chinese origin.
For the United States, the tri-border region between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay is of paramount importance. The Southern Command has identified sources of funding for “terrorist organisations” based in West Asia, mentioning Lebanese Hezbollah and Palestinian Hamas. To counter this alleged threat, a multilateral mechanism called 3+1 was created with the three South American countries and the United States.
Washington has also shown great interest in Argentine Patagonia. In this context, on 8 August, the US ambassador to Argentina attended a meeting with representatives of the world’s most powerful oil corporations in the city of Neuquén (located some 1,140 km southwest of Buenos Aires).
Four years earlier, in 2018, the construction of several facilities was announced, on a fiscal estate under the direction and funding of the US Southern Command. Although its embassy in Argentina hastened to inform that the works were part of a “humanitarian aid” project whose objective was to improve Neuquén’s capacity to respond to natural disasters, Neuquén’s civil society has rejected this idea, given that it has been characterised by secrecy, lack of information and lack of communication regarding what Argentina has obtained in exchange for the cession of this territory in an area that is considered to be of high strategic value.
According to a report by journalist Ariel Noyola Rodríguez published on the RT portal, the project characterised as a “camouflaged military base” is part of a continent-wide strategy that has been characterised as a novel form of military intervention in the region: the ‘Humanitarian Assistance and Natural Disaster Response’ programme, sponsored by the US Southern Command.
On the other hand, it cannot be overlooked in this analysis that part of Argentina’s territory is occupied by NATO forces. Between 1,500 and 2,000 British military personnel are stationed in the Malvinas, some of them permanently, as well as state-of-the-art fighter-bomber aircraft.
TO BE CONTINUED
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