By TONY SEED
(February 15, updated February 18, 22) – The Trump administration has stepped up threats of military aggression against Venezuela as part of its blackmail against the Venezuelan people and world opinion. The threat of military aggression is real, not merely an “option on the table.” In parallel, the U.S. is increasing its hostile military activities in the region, directed specifically against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and its resistance to U.S. dictate. The newly-appointed commander of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Admiral Craig Faller visited the Caribbean island of Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles, February 13-14, within 50 miles of the Venezuelan coast, following discussions with the Joint Military Staff of Brazil on February 11-12. Earlier he was in EL Salvador. Canada’s parallel deployment of the HMCS Charlottetown to Florida, under cover of a “port visit” and which is now hovering off of Norfolk, Virginia, is as suspect as it is unacceptable. Meanwhile, Britain’s navy and marines are conducting military exercises close to Venezuela.
It is not coincidental that the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft strike group – consisting of a missile cruiser and four destroyers – which, as of February 13th, was in the same area, according to the Southfront military analysts. The strike force left Norfolk on January 25 for exercises off Florida, with the participation of a Spanish frigate. Known as COMPUTEX exercises, they are designed to prepare training prior to a military deployment.
This issue is now coming to a head. The Cuban foreign ministry issued a strong statement warning yesterday of a U.S. military invasion of Venezuela:
“Between February 6 and 10 of 2019, several military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport in Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base in the Dominican Republic, and other strategically located Caribbean Islands, most certainly without the knowledge of the governments of those nations. These flights took off from U.S. military facilities where Special Operation Troops and U.S. Marine Corps units operate. These units have been used for covert operations, even against leaders of other countries.
Pointing to a draft resolution that the Trump administration recently introduced at the U.N. Security Council that expresses concern about the humanitarian conditions of Venezuela, Cuba concluded:
“[T]he U.S. intends to fabricate a humanitarian pretext in order to launch a military attack on Venezuela and, by resorting to intimidation, pressure, and force, is seeking to introduce into this sovereign nation’s territory alleged humanitarian aid… It is obvious that the United States is paving the way to forcibly establish a humanitarian corridor under international supervision, invoke the obligation to protect civilians, and take all necessary steps. It is worth recalling that similar behaviors and pretexts were used to by the U.S. during the prelude to wars it launched against Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Libya, which resulted in tremendous human losses and caused enormous suffering.”
The military-naval events on Curaçao in the Dutch Antilles, located just north of Venezuela, are ominous. The HMS Mounts Bay, a giant Royal Fleet Auxiliary landing ship, spent New Year in Miami embarking a US coastguard helicopter for the first time. It then sailed south and docked in Caracas Baii on Curaçao, by January 21. The Royal Navy asserted it was working with the US Coast Guard’s HITRON – Helicopter Interdiction Tactical squadRON – and its counter-narcotics boarding team, the LEDET (Legal Enforcement DETachment), which comes under the SOUTHCOM. The “war on drugs” is among other things a smokescreen precisely to legitimate the naval presence of the European states, who have enslaving colonial and neo-colonial interests, in the Caribbean and Latin America, on a regular basis. The HMS Mounts Bay immediately made its splash in the drama by conveniently finding a bale of cocaine “floating in the sea”; a “lucky find” crowed the Royal Navy.
In addition to “its regular complement of soldiers who operate her mexeflote powered barges” (amphibious landing craft), navaltoday informs that “the Bay-class ship has a dedicated 20-strong team from 24 Commando Royal Engineers – self-styled ‘Commandos of the Caribbean’ – and a Wildcat helicopter flight from 815 Naval Air Squadron.” These forces have the means to occupy and control the shoreline of any country, and use it to launch air and ground attacks against targets located in those countries, land their troops and support their advance.
Such a warship implies the threat of force and is a projection of U.S. and NATO military power. SOUTHCOM is the branch of the Pentagon that would lead any attack on Venezuela. The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Isaac Mayo is also operating in the area – showing that the coast of the United States includes Latin America and the Caribbean.
The U.S. maintains an important strategic military base on Curaçao, which it uses to conduct espionage, reconnaissance and surveillance missions in the region. Described as a ‘Co-operative Security Location” (formerly Forward Operating Location or FOL), it is located at the Hato International Airport – also known as the Curaçao International Airport – hosting AWACS and transport aircraft near the Royal Dutch Naval Air Station. The airport has the third longest commercial runway in the Caribbean region. A similar FOL base on the island of Aruba has not been used for the past two years.
In parallel, General Mark Stammer, commander of the U.S. Army of the South, arrived on February 4 in Bogota, Colombia to meet with the military and police leadership and review border issues. Army South is a component of the U.S. Southern Command which was established to conduct operations in Latin America.
For his part, Commander U.S. Southern Command Admiral Craig S. Faller, visited Curaçao February 13-14, 2019 hosted by the US Consul General Margaret Hawthorne. He had arrived from – Brazil. According to a Southcom release:
“In Brasilia February 11, Faller met with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, the Chief of Defense, Lieutenant-Brigadier Raul Botelho, the Navy Commander, Admiral Ilques Barbosa Junior, the Air Force Commander, Lieutenant-Brigadier Antonio Carlos Moretti Bermudez. The admiral also met with Chargé d’Affaires William Popp and other personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia and visited Brazil’s Aerospace Operations Command (COMAE).
“In Rio de Janeiro February 11 and 12, Faller met with Brazil’s Army Commander, General Leal Pujol, visited Brazil’s Airborne Brigade at Vila Militar, toured the multi-purpose helicopter carrier, Atlântico, and visited the Itaguai Submarine Base.”
On February 12, photographs appeared on the Southcom website of Faller and his Brazilian opposite numbers, including the meeting that day on the helicopter carrier Atlântico. No story on or details of their meeting are available, not even on U.S. Defense Department sites. Only the photographs and brief notices on Twitter. A general picture with general words is presented for the media. A photo is worth a 1,000 words, however.
During a meeting w/ Brazil’s Joint Staff of the Armed Forces, Air Force General Raul Botelho, & service chiefs,
#SOUTHCOM commander Adm. Craig Faller discussed security issues & relayed the U.S. commitment to future cooperation. #EnduringPromise @DefesaGovBr @EmbaixadaEUA
Strengthening Security Partnership w/
#Brazil: A look at #SOUTHCOM commander Adm. Craig Faller visiting the @marmilbr helicopter carrier Atlântico (A 140). Faller is in Brazil to meet w/ defense leaders & discuss security cooperation. #EnduringPromise @DefesaGovBr @EmbaixadaEUA
Why should Brazil receive such guests, who come festooned with all manner of arms, who claim to be there for friendly purposes and “security”?
The US and Brazilian generals designated two centres in northwestern Brazil as the centre of operations against Venezuela: Pacaraima and Boa Vista. The town of Pacaraima is located right on the border in the triple frontier of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela and has a “regional airport.” The Venezuela-Brazil border has only one road crossing, precisely between Pacaraima and Santa Elena de Uairén (a small Venezuelan city – 29,795 inhabitants in 2006, mainly Indigenous). Here, the Brazilian BR-174 federal highway from Boa Vista and Manaus on the Amazon River joins the Venezuelan north-south toll highway Troncal 10 to the cities of Ciudad Guayana (603 km) and Caracas. The second centre, Boa Vista, is a bit south of Pacaraima, 216 km, on a paved highway. It has an “international airport”and is linked to the Atlantic coast by the Trans-Amazonian Highway (official designation BR-230, official name Rodovia Transamazônica). Proceeding north from the border, southern Venezuela seems to be very thinly populated, mountainous (5,200′) and forested, with a huge national park (Canaima), unlike western Venezuela on the border with Colombia. Brazil has mobilized a good part of its army towards the border with Venezuela under the excuse of the control of refugees that were arriving from the Bolivarian country. Also noteworthy is the deployment of a Special Border Squadron in the region. Scores of innocent Venezeuluan refugees were beaten in Pacaraima late last summer.On August 7, Brazil refused a request by the State of Roraima to close the border.
The military and space base of Alcántara in the State of Maranhão in northeastern Brazil, located on an important bay across from the city of St. Luis, has been carrying out, since the end of 2017, joint military operations with Peru, Colombia and the United States. The transcripts of the discussions with Faller would prove intriguing, including as they no doubt did the negotiations for a new U.S. military base in isolated Alcântara. In August 2018 then US Secretary of Defense James Mattis chose Brazil as the initial destination for his first tour of South America. Among the topics on his agenda was U.S. participation in the Alcântara aerospace base, of great strategic value due to its proximity both to Venezuela and West Africa. Previous U.S. access to the base was reversed by the governments of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2011) and then with Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016), which was overthrown by a U.S.-led coup. A new base could only be activated from January 1, 2019 when the fascistic President Jair Bolsonaro legally came to power in Brasilia.
With U.S. bases in Colombia to the west and in the Netherlands Antilles to the north, and the activation of Brazil to the south, British military presence in the east (Guyana) would tighten the encirclement of Venezuela. A collective siege conducted by NATO allies of the U.S., the Netherlands, Britain – and perhaps France which has bases in French Guyana – all looking for seats at the table from the imperialist redivision of Venezuela and the Americas which is underway.
In Caracas, Juan Guaidó already boasted to his supporters that international “humanitarian aid” was en route to the country. The aid, he explained, is to be supplied by U.S. government agency USAID and warehoused in three separate locations, including the Colombian border city of Cucuta, a yet to be disclosed Caribbean island, and across the Brazilian border. Guaidó let the pigeon loose. However, Guaidó has been unable to recruit a sufficient critical mass from the Venezuelan armed forces and so, also on February 13, announced the entry date has been pushed back to February 23. Why the change in date? To give the U.S. time to move rapid deployment forces into place on the Pacific (Colombia) and Atlantic coasts?
Another photo on the SOUTHCOM website displays the “humanitarian” U.S. and Brazilian forces on the Amazon River in northeastern Brazil where U.S. sailors don the guise of innocent medics and hand out pills to the needy,
@USNavy and Brazilian Navy medical providers deployed aboard the Brazilian hospital ship NAsH Carlos Chagas (U-19) to deliver medical care to rural villages along the Amazon River. #NavyPartnerships #MarinhadoBrasil. #USNavy https://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=108577 …
Curaçao, a “hub” of the U.S. military adventure
Security in the
#Caribbean: Following his visit to Brazil, #SOUTHCOM Adm. Craig Faller visiting the Dutch Caribbean island #Curaçao to meet w/ leaders to discuss regional security & cooperation. #EnduringPromise
The aim of these military “visits” makes clear the political designs of American imperialism. During the admiral’s “visit,” the Curaçao Chronicle reported separately on February 13 from the Hague and, quoting Foreign Affairs Minister Blok, informed that “the Netherlands is establishing a ‘humanitarian hub’ in Curaçao for assistance to Venezuela. This is done at the request of Curaçao, the United States and Juan Guaidó, the parliament president who was recently recognized by the Netherlands as the rightful interim president of Venezuela.”
Venezuela is portrayed as the aggressor for blocking “humanitarian aid”, while the U.S. and the Netherlands, operating behind the backs of the Curaçaon people, are portrayed as the saviours of civilization and its values. This revelation further indicates that the United States means to attain its strategic objectives by relying heavily on the support of the European colonial states of the NATO bloc. Unquestionably the US and the Netherlands also have a treaty for joint action.
Curaçao in the militarization of the Caribbean
Classified by the U.S. Department of State as “The Third Frontier America”, the small islands of Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba are part of the U.S. geopolitical border, due to its participation in NATO, as part of the Netherlands. The region is like an extension of the United States Southern Command. Further, as the Netherlands, France and Britain are all members of NATO – and likewise demanding that the already legitimately elected Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro be replaced – this extends the geographical reach of the military bloc not only into the Caribbean Sea but as far in the South Atlantic Ocean as Malvinas (Falklands Islands) and the Georgia Islands. During the 1982 war for those islands, in its attack on Argentina Britain relied on logistical and other material support from NATO bloc members – the United States, Canada and Portugal – in violation even of the charter of the Organization of American States and its mutual assistance clause. The NATO fleet has been operating regularly in this zone since its formation in 1969 during the Cold War. Britain, France, the US and Canada use “disaster relief” to rehearse amphibious landings on the colonial island possessions of the Caribbean Sea.
Of all the Dutch islands, better known as the Netherland or Dutch Antilles, Curaçao is the largest and most populated. It is a neo-colony, with the Netherlands controlling defence and foreign policy. With some 165,000 inhabitants, mostly residing in the capital, Willemstad, Curaçao plays a strategic role of high importance for Washington. The Venezuelan state-owned oil company, PdVSA, has leased a refinery on the island since 1985 that employs some 1,000 workers.
In 1999, after 80 years of occupation, the U.S. government was forced to close its Howard Air Force Base in Panama as a major centre of military operations in the region. It established three small bases and operating under the pretext of strengthening anti-narcotic missions which at the same time increased their capabilities in aerial and naval monitoring and surveillance of the entire Caribbean and South America. On 1 May 1999, Washington began operations from these Forward Operating Locations (FOLs – Advanced Operations Centres) in El Salvador, Curacao and Aruba, and Manta, Ecuador, which was subsequently closed by that country in 2009 for subversive activity.
With the exposure by President Hugo Chávez of U.S. espionage flights from Curaçao of Venezuelan military bases beginning in 2005, which tore off the “anti-drug” mask of the FOL base; the massive Dutch-led “Caribbean Lion” exercises in 2006 with the participation of the Canadian Forces, during which amphibious landings in Curaçao were rehearsed; the launching of the grandiloquent “Partnership of the Americas 2007” – a six-month naval mission throughout Latin America and the Caribbean of a special US war task force; the reactivation of the Fourth Fleet of the U.S. Navy on July 1, 2008; the arrival of warships of the Russian Navy in late 2008; and the still-unsolved assassination in May 2013 of Helmin Wiels, AfroCuraçaoans leader of the Pueblo Soberano (Sovereign People) party, the largest vote getter, who demanded total independence, an end to legalized corruption, the closure of the U.S. military base and that the island not be used against Venezuela; Curaçao has become the eye of the deadly U.S. hurricane in the 21st Century Cold War.
Over the past year U.S. imperialism has steadily increased the pace and scope of its blackmail. Outside the media ere, it has staged successive, massive military operations south of its border such as the Tradewinds, Panamax and the largest, UNITAS, featuring dress rehearsal rehearsal of amphibious landings. It was the UNITAS exercise which massed U.S. warships off the naval port city of Valpairso, Chile which provided logistical and communication support for the military coup in September 1973, a presence camouflaged as “routine.”
U.S.-led UNITAS 2018 operated from different centres, including the Colombian naval base at the port city of Cartagena (Cartagena de Indias), a U.S. Special Forces naval warfare centre (e.g., Seal Team), on the southwestern Caribbean coast. The naval-air-land exercises – in which the Canadian Forces participated – included forces conducting operations in the southern Caribbean Sea as well as on the Pacific coast in late August and early September. In parallel, the UNITAS Amphibious 2018 was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, August 20-25.
Twenty three countries participated either with military units or observers. Military forces participating in one or all of these major exercises from outside the Hemisphere included Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, and Poland from the NATO bloc – and Thailand. Noteworthy last year was the arrival of U.S. military personnel in Panama in January of 2018, forces that stayed there through the end of Venezuelan presidential elections held in May, under the pretext of “protecting the Panama Canal.”
The U.S. currently maintains 76 military bases in Latin America and the Caribbean Sea. Among the best known are 12 in Panama, 12 in Puerto Rico, nine in Colombia, and eight in Peru, with the greatest number concentrated in Central America and the Caribbean.
Who is Adm. Faller?
Faller’s résumé is both illustrative and typical. Faller assumed duty as senior military assistant to James Mattis, U.S. secretary of defense, in January 2017. In that position, he served as his principal military advisor and assistant. Mattis in turn nominated him to succeed Admiral Kurt W. Tidd as commanding general of United States Southern Command. Tidd is the author of the SOUTHCOM’s once-secret plan codenamed “Masterstroke” (reproduced here) to overthrow the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. Dated February 23, 2018 the military plan demonstrates that the international image of a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is entirely fabricated for premeditated ends.
Faller took command on November 26, 2018. In the ceremony, he remarked, “As I see it, the Western Hemisphere is our neighborhood…. and in our neighborhood, security and stability can’t be taken for granted” (emphasis added). One of his first acts was to visit Colombia, two days later, newly incorporated into NATO as a “contact member.” Likewise, the new Colombian President Iván Duque visited the SOUTHCOM headquarters in Doral, Florida last July.
Previously, as commander, Carrier Strike Group 3, Faller deployed to the Middle East as part of the invasion of Iraq (Operations New Dawn) and Afghanistan (Enduring Freedom). He then served as commander, Navy Recruiting Command; as executive assistant to the commander, U.S. Pacific Command and commander, U.S. Central Command; and as director of operations, U.S. Central Command. Finally, he was incriminated in the massive “Fat Leonard” corruption scandal which rocked the upper echelons of the Pacific Command; Faller admitted freely taking gratuities from a defence contractor from Malaysia but was reportedly cleared.
Since taking charge of US Southern Command, US Admiral Faller has “visited” Brazil and Curaçao, Trinidad & Tobago and Columbia — all surrounding Venezuela — as well as El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
British jungle warfare exercises in Belize
In parallel, Major General Mark Stammer and “other senior army leaders” visited Base Ortega in Belize on February 13, according to the US Army of the South Facebook page, to “discuss regional stability.”
Meanwhile, the London Morning Star reported earlier that British marines were conducting jungle warfare training in Belize. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) characteristically described their deployment as “routine.” They arrived there in mid-January, when Britain was ratcheting up its diplomatic and economic campaign against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Initially, the marines were based at British Army Training Support Unit Belize, a permanent base adjacent to the country’s international airport. Photos show the marines carrying out battlefield drills, including casualty evacuation. The marines were from 40 Commando’s A Company, a highly trained unit that specializes in close combat and is “held at very high readiness by UK MoD for crisis response.”
Marines from 40 Commando were among the first British troops to land in Iraq during the 2003 invasion. Late last year they practised amphibious landings in the Gulf state of Oman, whose royal dictator is a British ally.
In Belize, they were currently accompanied by sappers from the Royal Engineers’ 59 Commando Squadron, who provide “close combat engineer support,” as well as members of Condor Troop, a unit normally based in Scotland. Photos show that by January 17 the marines had left the Belize barracks and were practising river crossings at a jungle location in crocodile-infested waters. This training appears to have continued into this month.
Britain’s air force is also active in the region. Flight data shows an RAF transport aircraft from Brize Norton landed in Belize after dark on January 23.
On February 2 the RAF released aerial photos of the Belize coastline, saying that its personnel were supporting “army exercises in Central America.”
The British government has not been slow to join the US imperialist band wagon, and itself recognise Guaidó as “interim president.” And although the European Parliament – many of whose leading members still control possessions in the American Hemisphere or like Germany have predatory economic interests – voted to recognise Guaidó, a proposed EU statement doing so was vetoed by Italy. This follows similar defeats at the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations.
The statements of Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt have been particularly repugnant, permeated with the racist sentiment that it is Britain’s “right to decide”. Workers” Weekly informs that Hunt told Guaidó that “there are many people in the UK who admire his courage and support what he is doing under the Venezuelan constitution.” Britain joined the United States and its cohorts in issuing the Lima Group ultimatums in Ottawa on February 4.
The resilience of the Venezuelan people cannot be underestimated or doubted. The streets of Caracas have been filled with tens of thousands of people who are determined to reject the establishment of the so-called “parallel government” militarized by the U.S. against their president, Nicolás Maduro, and their sovereignty. They uphold the Bolivarian revolution that is the legacy of Hugo Chávez. On February 10, Venezuela’s military kicked off large-scale military drills against foreign military intervention, which ran until February 15. According to President Maduro, the drills were the biggest ones the country has held in its 200-year history and featured a new form of unified military-militia co-operation.
Separately, President Maduro announced the setting up of 50,000 “popular defence units.” This has a significance that cannot be underestimated. The arming and training of an organized people will be essential to defending their neighbourhoods, as the resistance of Syria demonstrated. He promised that the U.S. will get a South American “Vietnam War” if it decides to invade.
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