[Marxism] Fourth Fleet patrols Lat Am's Atlantic Coast

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Tue Jul 29 13:59:58 MDT 2008


COUNTERPUNCH July 28
Fourth Fleet Steams South 
Return of the Gunboat 
By JOHN ROSS

Mexico City. 

The resurrection and imminent dispatch of the United States Fourth Fleet to
patrol the coasts of Latin America invokes the bad old days of Monroe
Doctrine impositions and gunboat diplomacy for many citizens of those
southern latitudes.

This April, the U.S. Navy announced the reactivation of the fleet that
historically operated in the south Atlantic during World War II, dueling
with Nazi U-boats.  Activating the Fourth Fleet "demonstrates U.S.
commitment to our global partners," Admiral Gary Roughead explained, adding
a threatening fillip: "The Fourth Fleet will send a strong signal to all
Navies operating in the region." 

Roughead maintains that the fleet's focus will be on drug interdiction and
"conducting training exercises" and its activation is "non-hostile."  Frank
Mora, a professor at the U.S. War College in Leavenworth Kansas told the
Miami Herald, he thought the Fleet could be used in "environmental
emergencies" and to control "youth gangs." 

The reactivated flotilla will sail in the strategic area overseen by the
U.S. Southern Command or SOUTHCOM based in Quarry Heights, Panama and is to
be homeported at Mayport in Jacksonville Florida.  The fleet is expected to
group together 11 war ships homeported at Mayport, including an aircraft
carrier (reportedly the soon-to-be commissioned "U.S.S. George H.W. Bush")
and a nuclear submarine.  To allay Latin leaders' fears, Undersecretary of
State for Hemispheric Affairs Tom Shannon was deployed to South America
during July.      

The Undersecretary's visit to Brazil proved abrasive.  He was met by raucous
demonstrators in Brazilia and closely questioned on the floor of the
Brazilian Senate about the Fourth Fleet's revival - one lawmaker recalled
how in 1964, U.S. ambassador Lincoln Gordon had threatened to land marines
stationed right off the Brazilian coast if leftist president Joao Goulart
did not resign.  Ex-Brazilian president Jose Sarnay warned of U.S. Fourth
Fleet designs on the enormous Tupi deep-water oil field that may hold as
many as five to eight billion barrels and could turn Brazil into one of the
top five petroleum producers on the planet.  

The U.S. Navy currently operates out of six Latin bases - Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba; Quarry Heights, Panama; Aruba, Curacao; Comalapa, El Salvador;
Comayuga, Honduras; and Manta, Ecuador - the last-named about to be shut
down by Ecuador.  Incensed by Washington's participation in the March 1st
bombing of a FARC guerrilla camp in the Ecuadoran jungle - Manta is believed
to have provided logistical support for Colombian helicopters - President
Raphael Correa has resolved not to renew the U.S. lease on that facility
when it expires in 2009.  An educated guess has the base being relocated to
La Guajira, Colombia close to the Venezuelan border which will not make Hugo
Chavez happy. 

Those attentive to Latin American history do not view the U.S. Fourth
Fleet's intentions as  "non-hostile."  U.S. Naval blockades of Cuba in 1963
during the Soviet-American missile crisis and of revolutionary Mexico in
1914, stir bitter memories.  The U.S. Navy turned the Caribbean into an
"American lake" from 1914 through the late 1920s, parking its fleet in Santo
Domingo and repeatedly invading Nicaragua.  

U.S. Navy flotillas land troops on sovereign soil, their long guns take out
distant targets, and bombing raids and reconnaissance flights are launched
from aircraft carriers.  Just the presence of the Fourth Fleet in Latin
American waters smacks of strategic intimidation.    

>From Brazilia, Undersecretary Shannon flew south to Buenos Aires to deliver
the good news that the Fourth Fleet would not enter Argentina's territorial
waters or inland rivers "without being invited."  Shannon's timing was
impeccable.  President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner's six month-old
regime, which has been roiled by months of mobilizations led by big soybean
farmers, was on maximum alert - the "soyeros" have blocked the nation's
highways since last January after Fernandez tacked a 15 per cent tax on
exports in order to finance  programs for the poor.

Bi-lateral relations between Washington and Buenos Aires have been in the
tank since the U.S. charged supposed bagmen for Venezuelan president Hugo
Chavez with financing Fernandez's campaign. The so-called scandal of the
"Maletas" ($800,000 USD was alleged to have been smuggled into Argentina in
a suitcase or "maleta") is a scenario that Queen Cristina (as she is taunted
by political opponents) labels "garbage."  

Writing in the Mexican daily La Jornada, left Latin American analyst Raul
Zebichi concludes that Shannon's voyage to Buenos Aires to sell the Fourth
Fleet to Fernandez during the soyero crisis amounted to "deliberate
destabilization."  The sailing of the Fourth Fleet is "naked aggression by
Washington to regain its hegemony" on a continent where U.S. influence has
been impressively diminished by the serial victories of the Latin American
electoral left.

Undersecretary Shannon then moved on to Bolivia where that majority
indigenous Andean nation's president Evo Morales is viewed by Washington as
one of the ringleaders of the anti-American wave sweeping the southern
continent.  

Bolivia is not a target for the U.S. Fourth Fleet, having lost its access to
the ocean in the Guano War of the late 19th century.  Nonetheless, Morales
denounced U.S. ambassador Phillip Goldberg's support of the right-wing
"autonomy" movement that is promoting the secession of five Bolivian
provinces, reading Shannon e-mails sent by U.S. AID officials to Bolivian
citizens threatening aid cut-offs if they continued to support his
government.

Only in Colombia, the first stop of Shannon's checkered journey, did he find
some satisfaction.  Touching down soon after the immaculately scripted
"rescue" of Ingrid Betancourt and 14 hostages held by the weakened FARC
guerrilla army, Tom Shannon laid on the blarney.  The Fourth Fleet's
intentions were honorable and "non-hostile." The war ships will safeguard
commercial shipping lanes and provide additional drug interdiction. 

It didn't take much effort to sell President Alvaro Uribe, George Bush's top
flunky in Latin America, on the idea.  Uribe even offered Barranquilla as a
homeport away from home for U.S. war ships.  Fourth Fleet deployment to
Colombia will provide much needed backup for Washington's anti-drug, War on
Terror Plan Colombia, a $6,000,000,000 boondoggle that has succeeded in
expanding the nation's cocaine acreage by 27 per cent in 2007.
Full story: http://www.counterpunch.org/ross07292008.html






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