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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 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).
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.
Z Magazine Archive
CUBAN 5 - From May 30 to June 5, supporters of the Cuban 5 will gather in Washington DC to raise awareness about the case and to demand a humanitarian solution that will allow the return of these men to their homeland.
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BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike- A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides, music, exhibitors, and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; mailbikesnotbombs.org; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in NYC.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduate Center, Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
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ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16 in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops.
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CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5-day Seminar at the University of Havana, plus visits to a co-op and educational and medical institutions.
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NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
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MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
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GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process in the U.S.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles.
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IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from across the continent to learn skills and build one big union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13, the 11th Annual Peacestock will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers, and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
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LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations, and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference.
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