DOCUMENTS & RESOURCES
DoD NEWS ARTICLES
March 24: Generals Say China, Russia Persist in Western Hemisphere Meddling
March 8: Southcom Commander Says Partnerships Key to National Defense in Western Hemisphere
EXCERPTS FROM SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE TESTIMONY, MARCH 24, 2022
Concern regarding Chinese activities in Latin America and the Caribbean
“My concern regarding China and the region is just the access and presence that they have and they've been able to create partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic rollbacks that this has had in the region. Eight percent of the world's population is in SOUTHCOM AOR, 33 percent of the world's COVID deaths were suffered. So, they've had a hard time with that. Economy has contracted eight percent, plunging 22 percent of the population into poverty.
And so, when these 28 like-minded democracies in this region, out of 31, are trying to deliver for their people, it's hard. And when China has the Belt and Road initiative, 21 of the 31 countries in this region have signed up and are signatories to that BRI. They need to show that they're delivering for their populations and infrastructure projects are probably the best way that with the BRI that shows progress. But as we know, the work is not done to standard. A lot of times, it leaves these countries with even more debt than when they started. A highway in Jamaica, Jamaica now has six loans as a result of this, they lost 1,200 acres of land and, oh by the way, the highway has a toll on it that most Jamaican's can't even drive on. The Chinese don't bring in and don't hire host nation workers, they bring in Chinese laborers. So they don't invest. It looks like they're investing, all they do is they take, they extract, and they have strings tied to what they offer.”
Overview of U.S. military security cooperation efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean
“We have a myriad of things that we do in terms of the training and the equipping. We do things from small teams, eight to 13-man teams. We do it in all the domains, special ops included, cyber, information ops.
We do big exercises as I mentioned before, PANAMAX, which is really a defense of the Panama Canal exercise, 29 countries from this AOR participate in that with us. We have Tradewinds, that's been a name that's been around for decades and that's a security operation in a contested environment that we train to, that will bring 21 countries together. My Navy component will do UNITAS this year; Brazil will host that. That will bring 19 countries together. And when you see the picture of UNITAS, of all the different vessels, the ships and vessels from the other countries and the navies and the coast guards, it's just really impressive.”
Importance of U.S. military regional engagement to compete with China
“The way I'm on the field, I don't need to outspend China to out-compete them, but I do need my security cooperation funding, that triple-three funding, to do security cooperation to help build the capacity and capability within those militaries and defense forces which helps them secure their borders, which helps them with internal security in their country and then also be exporters of training to other Latin American countries, and then in peacekeeping operations around the world, too.”
“We work very closely with our partner nations, and as I've said how important the lever is for security cooperation, for us to be on the field, to have our jersey on, have our number and work shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners. They really want to work with us.
All the levers that I have that you all provide and that I get from the Department of Defense, the Department of State, go into action. A little goes a long way in this AOR. Again, I don't need to out-compete my competitors or out-spend them to out-compete them. But we do have to be present and we do have to be there with them.”
EXCERPTS FROM HOUSE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE TESTIMONY, MARCH 8, 2022
Influence of China and Russia in Latin America and the Caribbean
“Today more than ever, America's fate is inextricably linked to events beyond our shores. This region, our shared neighborhood, is under assault from a host of cross-cutting, transboundary challenges that directly threaten our homeland.
I have been in command for about four months now and the biggest eye opener for me has been the extent to which China and Russia are aggressively expanding their influence in our neighborhood. Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing insecurity and instability that has been greatly exacerbated by COVID-19.
The People's Republic of China, our long-term strategic competitor, continues its relentless march to expand economic, diplomatic, technological, informational and military influence in Latin America and the Caribbean and challenges U.S. influence in all of these domains. Without U.S. leadership, negative PRC influence in this region could soon resemble the self-serving predatory influence it now holds in Africa. Meanwhile Russia, a more immediate threat, is increasing its engagements in the hemisphere as Putin looks to keep his options open and maintain relationships in our near abroad. In January, the Russian deputy foreign minister said he could neither affirm nor exclude that Russia would send military assets to Cuba or Venezuela. Just days before the Russia unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, the Russian deputy prime minister visited Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela -- countries that maintain close ties with Russia and offer Putin a foothold in our hemisphere.”
Threat of transnational criminal organizations
“In this hemisphere, transnational criminal organizations operate nearly uncontested and blaze a trail of corruption and violence and this creates a wedge and allows the PRC and Russia to exploit these countries. They threaten citizen security, undermine public confidence in government institutions and drive irregular migration to our homeland. These TCOs traffic opioids, cocaine and other deadly drugs into the United States, fueling both drug overdoses and drug-related violence that have affected so many of us and our loved ones.”
Importance of security partners in Latin America and the Caribbean
“In my initial travels to the region, it has become obvious to me that our partners are our best defense. We must use all available levers to strengthen our partnerships with the 28 like-minded democracies in this hemisphere who understand the power of working together to counter these shared threats. We must maximize important tools like security cooperation programs to train and equip our partner militaries, multilateral exercises to build interoperability and the State Department's IMET, FMF and FMS programs to educate, train and build capacity that our partners use to stand shoulder to shoulder with us. Colombia, for example, our strongest partner in the region, exports security by training other Latin American militaries to counter transnational threats.”
Concern for Chinese initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean
“The projects China has in the AOR are extremely prevalent. There are other agencies that are providing projects like USAID and things like that. My lever really is the Corps of Engineers and the projects that they do. But in terms of for the Department of Defense, it's only about $250 million in projects over a five-year period. If I look at what PRC is investing in the AOR over a five-year period of 2017 to 2021, $72 billion. It's off the charts.
The most concerning projects that I have are the $6 billion in projects specifically near the Panama Canal. And I look at the strategic lines of communication, Panama Canal and the Strait of Magellan. But just to highlight a couple of the projects, the nuclear power plant in Argentina, $7.9 billion; the highway in Jamaica, $5.6 billion; the energy refinery in Cuba, $5 billion; the highway in Peru, $4 billion; energy dam in Argentina, $4 billion; the metro in Colombia, $3.9 billion; the freight railway in Argentina, $3 billion. These are not small projects that they're putting in this region. This region is rich in resources and the Chinese don't go there to invest. They go there to extract.”
U.S. military cyber security support in Latin America and the Caribbean
“In terms of cyber, we need to do better in cyber. Our countries want to work with us. They aren't very long in terms of their cyber capabilities and so in terms of working through they all want help and assistance with cyber, with their networks, making sure that they have protected networks. And so, we have small teams, joint cyber capability assessment teams that we send, about 13-man teams with cyber experts and network experts to these countries and help with our partner nations, help do over-the-shoulder training to try to assist them with this because they are very much worried about the protection of their cyber capabilities and their networks.”