U.S. Military Exercises In The Caribbean




A

ccording to a press release by the U.S. Southern
Command (Southcom) on Monday, March 27, “A U.S. Navy Carrier
Strike Group will deploy from the U.S. east coast to the Caribbean
Sea to conduct Operation Partnership of the Americas from early
April through late May 2006.” The strike group will be composed
of “aircraft carrier

USS George Washington

with embarked
air wing, Cruiser

USS Monterey

, Destroyer

USS Stout

,
and Frigate

USS Underwood

.” This means that the U.S.
Navy is sending 4 ships, one of them carrying 60 fighter planes,
and a total of 6,500 soldiers on a major military exercise in the
Caribbean. 


The stated aims of this exercise are, “Enhancing military-to-military
relationships with regional partner nations, improving operational
readiness, and fostering good will.” By “fostering good
will” what is meant is sending a strong message to Venezuela
and Cuba. The commander of U.S. Southcom, General Bantz Craddock,
has on many occasions verbally attacked the Venezuelan government.
The decision to send this unusually large force to the Caribbean
was announced two weeks after General Craddok spoke at a Senate
committee hearing in which he called the Venezuelan government a
“destabilizing force” because of its moves in the international
arena, as well as ongoing efforts to purchase weapons, particularly
from China. “The purchase of military equipment has not been
a transparent process. This is a destabilizing factor in a region
where nations are making joint efforts to face international threats,
rather than fighting each other,” he stated. 








In
a press conference during his visit to Uruguay in June 2005 he was
even more specific: “I do not see Cuba as a military threat
to the United States, I do not see Venezuela as a military threat
to the United States. What I do see is an influence in Latin America
that creates, potentially creates, instability and uncertainty because
in Cuba, obviously it is a totalitarian state, a communist state,
and in Venezuela it appears that democratic processes and institutions
are at risk.” In a thinly disguised threat of military intervention,
General Craddock added, “The military aspect is to create conditions
to allow other solutions to work—economic, political, social.”
 


In the recently released Strategy for National Security 2006 document,
Washington clearly sees Venezuela as a target: “In Venezuela,
a demagogue inundated with petrol money is undermining democracy
and trying to destabilize the region.” 


The current U.S. military exercises must be seen in this context.
This is recognized even by rightwing military defense analysts from
the U.S. An article in the

Virginian Pilot

newspaper quoted
one of them: “The presence of a U.S. carrier task force in
the Caribbean will definitely be interpreted as some sort of signal
by the governments of Cuba and Venezuela,” said Loren Thompson
of the Lexington Institute, a pro-defense think tank in Washington,
who added, “The fact we are doing it now will be interpreted
by Castro and Ch«vez as indicative of some sort of U.S. plan,
or initiative, or whatever you want to call it.” 


U.S. Southcom already has a number of military bases within reach
of Venezuelan territory. These include smaller Cooperative Security
Locations based in Aruba and Curaçao off the coast of Venezuela,
in Manta in Ecuador, and in El Salvador, together with larger bases
in Soto Cano, Honduras, Guantánamo, Cuba, and several locations
in Colombia. Southcom has just issued a new “theater command
strategy,” part of which has been declassified. Objective number
one is to guarantee that “regional energy supplies will flow
freely into international markets and will not be targets of aggression.”
Essential to meeting this security objective, says Southcom, is
improving the ability of “partner nation security forces to
protect critical infrastructure” of the energy industry in
the region. This clearly affects Venezuela, which is the third largest
supplier of oil to the United States. 


A number of objectives have not been declassified, but number six
is to “prevent rogue states from supporting terrorist organizations.”
Considering there are no “rogue” states in Latin America,
this can only be a reference to Venezuela, which Washington has
accused, without presenting any proof, of supporting the FARC guerrillas
in Colombia (described by Braddock as “narco-terrorists”). 


Usually the corporate media dismisses President Ch«vez’s
warnings of the danger of a U.S. military intervention against the
Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. But information publicly available
shows that such an intervention is a very real danger. Washington
is not likely to start an open war in Venezuela at this particular
time when they are bogged down in Iraq, but they are certainly making
preparations. One way in which military intervention could take
place is by artificially fostering autonomist demands in Zulia,
the oil rich Venezuelan state on the border with Colombia. Local
politicians in that region (one of only two with an opposition governor)
have been busy demanding a referendum on autonomy. A scenario could
be envisaged in which they declare independence unilaterally and
ask for foreign intervention to guarantee their “democratic
rights.” Such an intervention would be easier to justify and
could even take place under the guise of “peace-keeping”
(as is currently the case in Haiti). 








This
would obviously not be an easy task. Chávez has already pointed
out, correctly, that the day after military intervention by the
U.S. against Venezuela, the whole continent would be in flames.
Latin America is witnessing a shift to the left with mass movements,
general strikes, insurrections, and elections of governments, which
are seen as being left wing by the citizens. 


The United States is seriously worried about the impact the Venezuelan
revolution is having in the rest of Latin America. They are accusing
Chávez of interfering in election campaigns in Peru and Mexico,
as they have accused him of interfering in the elections in December
in Bolivia, which Evo Morales won in a landslide victory. The accusation
that the Venezuelan government is directly financing candidates
in other countries is obviously wrong. But what is true is that
the Bolivarian revolution has raised the hopes of the masses of
workers and peasants throughout the continent and beyond. It has
provided an example that it is possible to challenge the policies
imposed by Washington. 


In previous decades a familiar pattern would take place in Latin
America. The majority of workers and peasants would elect a progressive
government, which would then be overthrown by a military coup engineered
by the U.S. This has had a demoralizing effect on the movements
there. The Bolivarian revolution has changed that with the movement’s
defeat of the U.S.-aided military coup against Chávez in April
2002. 


The effect is not only in Latin America, but also in the United
States where millions of Latinos live and work, many of them keeping
links with their countries of origin. The hundreds of thousands
of Latin American immigrants in the United States who demonstrated
for their rights in March and April would not remain idle if the
U.S. staged a military provocation against Venezuela. 


Nonetheless, the U.S. is carrying out careful preparations to put
an end to the Bolivarian revolution. These include a campaign of
relentless pressure—through the media, diplomacy, and economic
sabotage. The current U.S. military exercises in the Caribbean are
clearly part of these preparations. For these reasons it is more
important than ever to redouble the efforts of the solidarity movement.





Jorge
Martín is a member of Hands Off Venezuela.