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US Military Bases in Latin America: Entrenching the Empire. By Pablo Ruiz

In Latin America and the Caribbean, the army, the DEA, the CIA, and other US agencies have innumerable bases of operations, installations, offices, and 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 monitor our continent.

Chile: Peace operations?

In Chile, the US Army Southern Command financed the construction, in 2012, at Fort Aguayo, Concón, of a “Peace Operations Training Center”, which Alicia Lira rightly described as a “counter-insurgency” training center. Let us not forget the role played by the “blue helmets”, MINUSTAH, in Haiti, where there were accusations of repression, assassinations, and sexual abuse against the population.

“It is not by chance that this military base appears in Concón because when a city or a town rises up, as in the case of Aysén, and as the students have done, a counter-insurgency scheme is proposed. This follows the dictatorship’s logic 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 (AFEP).

“It is not by chance that this military base appears in Concón because when a city or a town rises up, as in the case of Aysén, and as the students have done, a counter-insurgency scheme is proposed. This follows the dictatorship’s logic 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 (AFEP).

Although the Minister of Defense, José Antonio Gómez, told SOA Watch in 2015 that this “Peace Operations Training Centre” had been closed, the truth is that its facilities, which simulate a city, have continued to be used for military training and that US Marines have been and possibly continue to be present in Chile.

In addition to the above, in April 2018, US and Chilean troops carried out “exercises” at Fort Aguayo. 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.

Peru: The danger of Namru-6

In Peru, there are several US military bases and a very particular one, NAMRU-6, which has no less than three facilities, in Lima, Iquitos, and Puerto Mandonado. The US Naval Medical Research Unit, or NAMRU-6, is aimed at researching infectious diseases, although its facilities could also be used for possible “biological warfare”.

Researcher Olga Pinheiro wrote an article for the magazine El Derecho a Vivir en Paz entitled “ABC de la Geopolítica: Biological Warfare” which points out that “One of its facilities – NAMRU-6 – is located in the Peruvian Amazon, no less, in the vicinity of the Amazon River, in the city of Iquitos, which should alert us to the serious risk of contamination, dissemination and proliferation of infectious agents”, adding that “there remains the concern about 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 intentional introduction of the swine fever virus (1971) and dengue hemorrhagic fever (1981). The latter attack caused thousands and thousands of sick people; 158 people died, including 101 children.

Honduras: The Soto Cano Base

NAMRU-6 is also known to have opened a branch office in recent years within the Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, where the US Army’s Joint Task Force-Bravo (JTF-Bravo) operates. This is, along with the US military base at Guantánamo, one of the “classic” military bases where there are US troops, equipment, radar, airstrips, and, obviously, weaponry.

“JTF-Bravo conducts a variety of missions in Central and South America ranging from supporting US government operations to counter transnational organized crime to humanitarian assistance, natural disaster support and the development of support capabilities,” notes the Southern Command.

We should remember that former president Manuel Zelaya passed through this military base and airport when he suffered a coup d’état in 2009, to be expelled to Costa Rica. US troops did nothing then to stop this coup. Nor are they doing anything today where – not only is the government accused of involvement in serious human rights violations – the government of Juan Orlando Hernández is accused of involvement with drug trafficking groups.

Add to that, years later, in 2016, it became known that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her support to the coup in Honduras that overthrew democratically elected Zelaya.

The School of the Americas continues to operate

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 Panama as a result of the Torrijos-Carter Treaties and was installed, as of 1984, in the US at Fort Benning in Columbus Georgia.

Since January 2001, its name has been changed to mislead public opinion, and since then it has been called the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation” (WHINSEC).

It is also important to note that in the United States there are more than a hundred other military bases where troops from Latin America and the Caribbean also receive training. All this, without considering the courses or assistance that may be given by the police, FBI, CIA, DEA, USAID, as well as other US agencies, to military, police, or civilian troops throughout our continent.

Training, like assistance, is vital to achieving ideological and political influence on minds, mainly in the high command of the Armed Forces and the police who have a monopoly on force in our nations. It was not strange, then, that in the attempted coup d’état in Venezuela (2002), in the coup d’état in Honduras (2009), and in 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 US government was complicit against the people of El Salvador. Among them, we remember that it gave military training, at the School of the Americas, to the Atlacatl Battalion, 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, who was involved in the crime of Monsignor Oscar Romero.

Currently, in El Salvador there 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 USA and the fight against the “new threats”.

The truth is that, in recent decades, legal warfare, “Lawfare”, the criminalization and prosecution of social leaders, has emerged as a weapon of combat. If they are not assassinated or disappeared, they are stigmatized, discredited, and brought to trial. Many leaders even run the risk of being imprisoned and living in a political prison.

On the afternoon of  December 10, 1981, the tranquility of the small village of El Mozote in the north of El Salvador, near the border with Honduras, was to vanish forever. The Atlácatl battalion, a Salvadoran army group charged with putting an end to guerrilla warfare and trained at the infamous School of the Americas, known as the hotbed of the military that inaugurated Latin America’s bloodiest dictatorships, stormed into the village.

Full Spectrum

To all that we already know about the US presence in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a strong presence in Colombia, Panama, and other nations, the recent agreement for the use of the Alcântara Aerospace Launch Center in Brazil; the use of the Galapagos Islands, in Ecuador, by the US army; are new precedents about the continuous forms of militarization that US imperialism continues to develop in our continent in order to maintain its hegemony.

In ending here it is important to remember that Rina Bertaccini – former 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 content of the document “Joint Vision 2020” of the US Army where it is pointed out that today domination is conceived as “full-spectrum”.

“In 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 military with its lethal power, but also political, economic, ideological and cultural, without limitation or legal or moral conditioning of any kind,” Bertaccini pointed out at the time.

Source: OPAL, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English

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