In Latin America and the Caribbean, the Army, the DEA, the CIA, and other U.S. agencies have innumerable bases of operations, facilities, offices, as military agreements that allow them to operate at any time in our territories.
If before they said that their objective was to combat communism, subversion, revolution, which challenged the capitalist model, today, the “new threats” are terrorism, drug trafficking, cybersecurity, natural disasters, criminal organizations, and, lately, they are even concerned about “illegal fishing”. Under these new threats or pretexts, they continue to militarize, control, and watch over our continent.
Chile: Peace Operations?
In Chile, the US Army Southern Command financed the construction, in 2012, in Fort Aguayo, Concón, of a “Peace Operations Training Center”, which Alicia Lira very well qualified as a “counterinsurgency” training center. Let us not forget the role played by the “blue helmets”, MINUSTAH, in Haiti, where there are accusations of repression, murders, and sexual abuses against the population.
“It is not random that this military base appears in Concón because when a city or town rises, as in the case of Aysén, and as the students have done, a counterinsurgency scheme is put forward. This follows the logic of the dictatorship of the so-called ‘internal enemy’, and that is what is being applied”, said Alicia Lira, president of the Association of Relatives of the Politically Executed (Agrupación de Familiares de Ejecutados Políticos or AFEP, in Spanish).
Although the Minister of Defense José Antonio Gómez told SOA Watch in 2015 that this “Peace Operations Training Center” had been closed, the truth is that its facilities, which simulate a city, have continued to be used for military training and that there was and possibly continues to be a presence of US Marines in Chile.
To all of the above, in April 2018, “exercises” were carried out at Fort Aguayo, by US and Chilean troops. It is also known that the US military buys gasoline in Chilean territory, which logically suggests that Chile is a military transit base for the US military.
Perú: The danger of NAMRU-6
In Peru, there are several US military bases and a very particular one is NAMRU-6, which has no less than three facilities, in Lima, Iquitos, and Puerto Maldonado. The “US Naval Medical Research Unit”, or NAMRU-6 has the objective of investigating infectious diseases although its facilities could also be used for an eventual “biological warfare”.
Researcher Olga Pinheiro wrote, for El Derecho de Vivir en Paz (The Right to Live in Peace) Magazine, an article entitled “ABC of Geopolitics: Biological Warfare” which points out that “One of its facilities – NAMRU-6 – is located, no less than in the Peruvian Amazon, near the Amazon River, in the city of Iquitos, which should put on alert before the serious risk of contamination, dissemination, and proliferation of infectious agents”, adding that “there remains the concern before the manipulation of pathogens by foreign military institutions that were directly involved in the development of biological weapons in different periods of history”.
We cannot forget that Cuba has suffered several attacks with Biological Weapons; among them, the introduction, intentionally of swine fever virus (1971) and the hemorrhagic dengue (1981). This last attack caused thousands of sick people; 158 people died, among them 101 children.
Honduras: Soto Cano Base
It is also known that NAMRU-6 opened in recent years a branch office inside the Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, where the US Army’s Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-Bravo) operates. This is, together with the US military base in Guantanamo, one of the “classic” military bases where there are US troops, equipment, radars, airstrips, and, obviously, weaponry.
“JTF-Bravo base carries out a variety of missions in Central and South America ranging from supporting U.S. Government operations to counter transnational organized crime, to humanitarian assistance, natural disaster support and the development of support capabilities”, notes Comando Sur (the Southern Command).
We must remember that former President Manuel Zelaya passed through this military base and airport when he suffered a coup d’etat in 2009, to be expelled to Costa Rica. US troops did nothing to stop this coup. Nor do they do anything today where – not only is the government accused of being involved in serious human rights violations – the government of Juan Orlando Hernandez is accused of being involved with drug trafficking groups.
To this, we must add that it became known years later, in 2016, that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her support to the coup d’état in Honduras, that overthrew Manuel Zelaya, the democratically elected president.
The School of The Americas still operates
Former Panamanian President Jorge Illueca described The School of the Americas – which operated in Panama between 1946 and 1984 as “the largest base for destabilization in Latin America”.
As we know, The School of The Americas had to leave this country as a consequence of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties and was installed, as of 1984, in Fort Benning, in the city of Columbus, Georgia, United States.
Since January 2001, its name was changed, to deceive public opinion, and since then, it has been called the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation” (WHINSEC).
Everyone needs to know that the U.S. continues to train military, police, border guards, and civilians from all over Latin America and the Caribbean, at WHINSEC military base in Fort Benning. Besides, WHINSEC instructors travel throughout our continent to provide military training.
It is also important to note that there are more than a hundred other military bases in the United States where troops from Latin America and the Caribbean also receive training. All this, without considering the courses or assistance that might be given by the police, FBI, CIA, the DEA, USAID, as well as other US agencies to military, police, or civilian troops throughout our continent.
Training, as well as assistance, is vital to achieving ideological and political influence in the minds, mainly in the high commands of the Armed Forces and police that have the monopoly of force in our nations. It was not strange, that the coup d’état in Venezuela (2002), in the coup d’état in Honduras (2009), and Bolivia (2019), graduates of The School of the Americas were involved in these events.
The ILEA In El Salvador
We will always remember the atrocities in which the U.S. government was complicit against the people of El Salvador. Among them, we will remember that it gave military training, at the School of the Americas, to the Atlacatl Batallion, involved in the crimes of El Mozote and the murder of the six Jesuit priests and two women. We will also remember the name of Roberto d’Aubuisson, a graduate of the School of The Americas, involved in the crime of Monsignor Oscar Romero.
Currently, in El Salvador operates – what some have called a new School of the Americas – The International Law Enforcement Academies (ILEA) where police, prosecutors , and judges are trained under the ideological thinking and interests defended by the US and the fight against the “new threats”.
The truth is that, in recent decades, has emerged as a weapon of combat, the legal war, the “Lawfare”, the criminalization and prosecution of leaders and social leaders. If they are not assassinated or disappeared, they are stigmatized, discredited, and brought to trial. Many leaders run the risk of being imprisoned and living in a political prison.
To all that we already know about the US presence in Latin America and The Caribbean, with a strong presence in Colombia, Panamá, and other nations, the recent agreement for the use of the Alcântara Launch Center in Brazil; the use of the Galapagos Islands, in Ecuador, by the US military; are new antecedents on the continuous forms of militarization that US imperialism continues to develop within our continent to maintain its hegemony.
At the end of this text, it is important to remember that Rina Bertaccini – who was president of the Movement for Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity among the Peoples of Argentina, (MOPASSOL) and vice – president of the World Council for peace – denounced in 2011, at the “V National Meeting of the Brazilian Association of Defense Studies” (ENABED), the contents of “Joint Vision 2020” of the US Army where it is pointed out that today domination is conceived as “full-spectrum”.
“With all crudeness, they are warning us what we can expect from the imperialist wars of the 21st century: a global action deployed in all domains: specifically the military, with its lethal power, but also in the political, economic, ideological and cultural planes, without limitation or legal or moral conditioning of any kind”, Bertaccini pointed out at the time.
*Pablo Ruiz is a Journalist and part of the Observatory for the Closing of The School of the Americas (SOA Watch).