General Cites Southcom Regional Challenges

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — There have been sev­er­al “good news” trends observed across the Caribbean and Cen­tral and South Amer­i­can regions over the past decade, yet nar­co-ter­ror­ism and cor­rup­tion remain seri­ous secu­ri­ty con­cerns, U.S. South­ern Command’s chief said here yes­ter­day.

Trade has increased in the region, while unem­ploy­ment and pover­ty are down, Air Force Gen. Dou­glas M. Fras­er told an audi­ence at the Air Force Association’s 2011 Air and Space Con­fer­ence and Tech­nol­o­gy Exposition. 

Col­lege enroll­ment and lit­er­a­cy rates increased in the region over the past 10 years, Fras­er said. And, he added, more than 60 per­cent of the peo­ple sup­port democracy. 

“A lot of times we don’t real­ize just how much [good] progress has been made,” the gen­er­al said. 

Yet, pover­ty remains a seri­ous issue in Southcom’s area of respon­si­bil­i­ty, which includes Latin Amer­i­ca south of Mex­i­co, the waters off Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca and the Caribbean Sea, the com­man­der said. 

“Over a third of the pop­u­la­tion still lives below the pover­ty lev­el — $2 a day — in some coun­tries, specif­i­cal­ly in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca,” Fras­er said. “In some cas­es, 50 to 60 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion is liv­ing below the pover­ty line.” 

Twelve per­cent of the region­al pop­u­la­tion lives in extreme pover­ty, the gen­er­al said, earn­ing just $1 dol­lar a day. 

Cor­rup­tion remains an issue, Fras­er said, and jus­tice is a relat­ed concern. 

“In many cas­es, there’s only a 2 to 3 per­cent con­vic­tion rate for those who are detained,” he added. 

Fras­er said the Unit­ed States’ secu­ri­ty con­cerns in the region encom­pass transna­tion­al orga­nized crime, illic­it traf­fick­ing, vio­lent extrem­ist orga­ni­za­tions, nar­co-ter­ror­ism, crim­i­nal gangs and nat­ur­al disasters. 

The two pri­ma­ry nar­co-ter­ror­ist groups in South Amer­i­ca are the FARC in Colom­bia and Sendero Lumi­nosa, or Shin­ing Path, in Peru, the gen­er­al said. 

While the FARC — Fuerzas Armadas Rev­olu­cionar­ios de Colom­bia, or Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Armed Forces of Colom­bia — has been a con­cern in Colom­bia for more than 40 years, he said, the last decade has seen a decline in the group’s size and power. 

“With sup­port from the Unit­ed States, Colom­bians have made a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the abil­i­ty of the FARC to oper­ate — but they’re still there, and [the Colom­bians] are still engaged with address­ing that con­cern,” Fras­er said. 

Sendero Lumi­nosa is a much small­er group, reduced in num­ber from the 1990s but is start­ing to grow again, Fras­er said. 

“It’s still … a sig­nif­i­cant prob­lem for Peru, and we con­tin­ue to sup­port their efforts,” he added. 

These groups and the car­tels rep­re­sent a com­plex prob­lem, com­bin­ing ille­gal traf­fick­ing in drugs, bulk cash, weapons and peo­ple with activ­i­ties includ­ing mon­ey laun­der­ing, vio­lence, bribery and cor­rup­tion, the gen­er­al said. 

“It is all lev­els and all dif­fer­ent types of illic­it activ­i­ty,” Fras­er added. 

Mex­i­can drug car­tels includ­ing Sinaloa and Los Zetas are mov­ing south into Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca, and expand­ing beyond the region into Africa and oth­er places, Fras­er said. 

“Cocaine is still pro­duced large­ly in Colom­bia, Peru and Bolivia,” he said. 

Cocaine traf­fick­ing is an $85 bil­lion indus­try world­wide and the mar­ket is expand­ing, Fras­er said. The Unit­ed States is the largest con­sumer, with Brazil the sec­ond largest and the Unit­ed King­dom the great­est per capi­ta con­sumer, he added. 

Crim­i­nal net­works find their great­est cocaine prof­its across the Atlantic, he said. 

In South Amer­i­ca, a kilo­gram of cocaine sells for $2,000 to $5,000; the price increas­es to $20,000 to $40,000 in the Unit­ed States, $80,000 to $100,000 in Europe, and $100,000 to $140,000 in the Mid­dle East, the gen­er­al explained. 

Ille­gal drug trade in the region also moves metham­phet­a­mine pre­cur­sors, mar­i­jua­na and hero­in into U.S. and oth­er mar­kets, Fras­er said, while com­mer­cial-grade weapons and bil­lions of dol­lars flow back to crim­i­nal groups in Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca from the Unit­ed States. 

Com­pe­ti­tion relat­ed to this traf­fic has con­tributed to an alarm­ing homi­cide rate in some coun­tries, he noted. 

From 2007 through 2010, there were 67,000 homi­cides in Cen­tral Amer­i­ca, twice as many among half the pop­u­la­tion as in Mex­i­co dur­ing the same time, Fras­er said. 

Southcom’s efforts com­bat­ing crim­i­nal activ­i­ties in Cen­tral and South Amer­i­ca are large­ly focused on build­ing part­ner nation capa­bil­i­ties, the gen­er­al said. 

The com­mand sup­ports ground, air, and sea and fresh­wa­ter inter­dic­tion and appre­hen­sion efforts with train­ing, ves­sels, and detec­tion and mon­i­tor­ing tech­nolo­gies, Fras­er said. 

South­com inte­grates joint capa­bil­i­ties and inter­a­gency efforts through­out the region to aid local gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance of and access to crim­i­nal oper­a­tions, he said. 

Some of the same capa­bil­i­ties — intel­li­gence, sur­veil­lance and recon­nais­sance plat­forms; light and rotary lift air­craft — also assist dis­as­ter response force access, emer­gency evac­u­a­tion and med­ical evac­u­a­tion, Fras­er noted. 

“It is a great mis­sion; it is a unique mis­sion,” the gen­er­al said. “It is one that stress­es us, if you will, to think differently.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →