Independent Media Centre Ireland

New Latin American century (part 3): US "Forward Operating Locations", Domination, Robots & fibs.

category international | anti-war / imperialism | opinion/analysis author Thursday August 20, 2009 22:52author by iosaf

This third part of my current series on Latin America will detail the current bases operated in Latin America and takes at least part of its title from a wonderful article published this afternoon by Fidel Castro on the subject of the new push by USA to open up more bases or what it terms "forward operating locations". Fidel writes a letter to Granma the official newspaper of the Cuban revolution named after the boat which left Mexico in 1956 carrying himself, his little brother Raul, the immortal Che and the much overlooked anarchist Camilo Cienfuegos to start a revolution. The rest is history, so they say. Courtously the editorial folk at Granma print Fidel's letter every week regardless of its quality but somehow this afternoon's started a "buzz" in Latin American solidarity and analyst circles worldwide for its wonderful byline & prediction : "US global domination and robots by 2020". Here follows a historical over-view, summary of Fidel's article & a guide to the current US bases in South America.
The Eagle holds treaties & deals in its left talon so it can use thunderbolts in its right talon.
The Eagle holds treaties & deals in its left talon so it can use thunderbolts in its right talon.

=========________________ Historical overview___________________==========

As we begin appraising these new 7 US bases in Colombia it is useful to bear in mind what Hilary Clinton has categorically said "they are not bases". I wrote in a comment to the second part of this series yesterday specifically concerning the Shannon parallel, that we may learn much from how the USA opens and maintains these bases and that " The new Colombian US bases are no more bases than Shannon is a US base".

Q : so if they are not bases what are they?
A : they are "Forward Operating Locations.


Let us begin with USSOUTHCOM, or the "southern command" as it is better known. Southcom is one of ten " Unified Combatant Commands" in the US ministry of Defense, better known as the Pentagon. In the comments to my article on the Honduran coup d'etat and in the appraisal of the Irish based LASC analyst, José Antonio Gutiérrez, great lengths were gone to explain that responsibility for the current situation in Honduras is laid at the doors of this Pentagon office. I went further and laboured to explain that this office bridges presidencies and though literally is in "Obama's back yard" is hardly ever likely to be thought answerable or controllable by him. There are limits it seems to even the job of commander-in-chief. As such even Hugo Chavez would later in laying blame at SOUTHCOM's door sought to temper whilst also undeniable honing his accusations by exhonerating Obama, publically saying he had doubted the US chief-of-staff had prior knowledge or in-depth understanding of the agenda of SouthCom and the lobby it serves.

Q : So who are these SOUTHCOM people? This bunch who Latin Americans call the "yankee empire" (seeing only one type of US) and I for some reason prefer to call the "dixie empire" (seeing clear differences between them and the sort of US I see elsewhere globally)?

A : SOUTHCOM is a joint command of more than 1,200 military and civilian personnel representing the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and several other federal agencies which operate under 3 "joint taskforces" : joint taskforce Bravo, joint taskforce Guantanamo and Joint Interagency Task Force South.

Q: How did they begin?
A. It depends on who you ask really.... They themselves : trace their origins to the decision to station US marines at the Panama canal in 1903 and guard the isthmus and thus trade passing from the Atlantic to the Pacific as well as its railroad.

I myself would put it this way The Panama railroad was the product of both shrewd investment on the part of southern USA businessmen and the slave labour conditions of local peasants and chinese migrants. That first deployment increased the following year with the arrival of US marines on what they proudly term one of their first humanitarian missions to ensure that their slave labour wouldn't die of yellow fever and something could be done about malaria. Within four years the civilian project had been militarised under president Theodore Roosevelt. Thus would the US marines seize strategic territory for the second time in ten years. They had already taken Guantanamo Bay in 1898.

Teddy Roosevelt is key to understanding the new Latin American century of this series of articles. I have made no attempt to describe a calendar century which conveniently began on any year ending in double zeroes. Roosevelt was a white supremacist and imperialist who had come to the fore for his adventures in the war in Cuba which formed part of the Spanish-American war of (1898). He arrived in the White House thanks to the assassination of Mc Kinley (by an anarchist incidently) and his career is inseperable from the development of the US Marines in the Philippines, Cuba, and Puerto Rico, the Boxer Rebellion in China, the Perdicaris Incident in Morocco, Veracruz, Santo Domingo, and the Banana Wars in Haiti and Nicaragua. Indeed without Roosevelt in the public eye telling the American people that history and God had brought them to the stage that their race ought expand and dominate, the experiences gained in counter-insurgency and guerrilla operations during that period would never have been consolidated into the Small Wars Manual which was the first military instruction book to be used by more than one branch of the US armed forces. Ergo, I would say - the birth of SouthCom.

Whenever they started or however, the joint forces entity headquartered in Howard Base, Panama would remain right unto our latter days or almost. SOA (the School of the Americas) was established in Panama in 1946. Oddly enough not much is ever recorded as happening in 1946 or 1947 either. Your Leaving Certificate books just skip those years. Presumably everyone was hungry and trying to rebuild their lives after the war. Just to confuse you all, SOA is no longer actually called SOA. IT is now called WHINSEC. Which is much easier to say if you speak with either a faint German or strong Dixie drawl. Anyway, SOUTHCOM adopted its current name and emblem in 1963.

Then along came a democratic president who though a cashcrop farmer (peanuts) had it appears little sympathy with the cashcrop (banana) concerns of his rivals for office. President Jimmy Carter did a deal with the Panamanian president Omar Torrijos in 1977. This deal came in two parts. The first was termed The Treaty Concerning the Permanent Neutrality and Operation of the Panama Canal . Maybe some day a future taoiseach of Ireland will sign something like that for Shannon. Though to be fair to any Irish Taoiseach, Mr Omar Torrijos had never been elected and had seized power in a (US backed) coup d'etat in 1968. Part one gave the U.S. the permanent right to defend the Panama canal from any threat that might interfere with its continued neutral service to ships of all nations. Certain of the older British and French establishment who could remember the Suez Canal crises and war of the 1950's must of choked on their brandy. The second part established that as from midnight on December 31, 1999, Panama would assume full control of canal operations and become primarily responsible for its defense.

Y2K came and Panama got its canal back for the first time in almost a century USSOUTHCOM packed up and left, going up north to hq itself in Miami Florida. Again as part of the Carter-Torrijos 1977 agreement to wind down US involvement in Panama (obviously) SOA was then moved from Panama to Fort Benning, Georgia USA in 1984 and as I've mentioned decided to change its name, perhaps to attract a new kind of student, who knows?.

SOUTHCOM then made the key policy decision along with all the other ten Pentagon joint command areas for our sweet blue planet to stop calling its bases, "bases" but instead call them "forward operating locations".

============__________US BASES IN LATIN AMERICA____________============

I trust most readers can imagine what Latin America looks like in their minds eye. If not the illustration with this article shows you a map of the southern continent and the northern continent as far as the border of Mexico with the USA as established since the USA annexed Texas, Arizona, California and New Mexico, way off - back then.

way out east - Puerto Rico

We began at the north-eastern most part of the Carribean sea on the island of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeastern Caribbean, meaning they rule the place but the residents don't get to vote in elections and some even think they are second class citizens because of that. But liberal minded Americans point out that though they were an imperial possession of 1898 and the Spanish-American war, they matured to "unincorporated territory" status by 1900 and have since the days of Teddy Roosevelt enjoyed home rule status which under the presidency of WW2 president FD Roosvelt (Teddy's nephew) would extend to rights which by 1946 included a dinky little flag.

The Roosevelt Roads US base occupies about three quarters of the island of Vieques to the west of Puerto Rico. It was established in 1943 on a site which since 1919, F.D. Roosevelt had thought good for an airstrip. We can see he thought ahead. What was once a big base hosting naval, army, marine corp and special forces was scaled down in 2004 as part of the relocation of most of SouthCom to the US states of Texas & Florida. Nonetheless the base is still active, off limits to snoopers and more than capable of supporting either a land or sea invasion of Atlantis should it reappear in the neighbouring Bermuda Triangle this side of Nostradamus.

due west - Guantanamo

Gitmo is so notorious as a prison camp set up by the Bush / Cheney presidency that many might over look its history, extension and other functions. GITMO consists of 49.4 kilometres squared of dry land and a further 68.4 kilometres squared of marsh land and sea. It counts on a waterfront of 17.5 kilometres and was seized by the USA in 1903 as a trophy of the war which for many began the US imperialist and undoubtedly supremacist project to control both continents of America and all its archipelagos. GITMO is 920 kilometres from Havana, the capital of Cuba and only 64 kilometres from Santiago the second largest city of the island. We hardly know anything about the place.

due south - Aruba & Curazo

The military bases of Aruba and Curazo are located due south of GITMO in the Carribean islands of the Lesser Antilles which are currently an autonomous region of the Netherlands. These former dutch colonies are 27 km or 17 miles north of the coast of Venezuela. Both centres are currently designated as “FOL”s and their primary function is satellite support. This is where the kind American tracks hurricanes so that they may be given names and responded to effectively should they endanger either the quality of life or property of white folks. Naturally such techno-wondrous gagdgets and gizmos (we're talking golfballs) also help eardrop on local communication in Venezuela and it seems from the complaints, the Dutch aren't too happy about it either.

back to the Central American mainland, Atlantic coast - Honduras

Soto Cano, Palmerola primarily described as a US radar station to monitor lost fisherfolk in the Carribean between Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula and the western tip of Cuba. It has also been credited with first rate assistance to tax evading residents of neighbouring Belize (formerly British Honduras) whose yachts have felt the pull of the Bermuda Triangle, yes – even so far away.

On the other hand, Wikipedia insists : "A large concentration of US troops and the Honduran Air Force academy use the airbase. The airbase became operational in 1981, changing the old location the Honduran Air Force Academy in Toncontin, Tegucigalpa to Palmerola. More info about Honduras Air Force Academy [[1]] (Spanish) Oliver North once used Palmerola as a base of operations for the U.S. backed Contras in the 1980s. Now the U.S. military uses Soto Cano as a launching point for its war on drugs efforts in Central America as well as humanitarian aid missions throughout Honduras and Central America. In addition to the Honduran Air Force Academy, the US military's Joint Task Force Bravo (JTF-B) is headquartered at Soto Cano. JTF-B consists of Medical Element - Military Hospital, Army Forces, Air Force Forces, Joint Security Forces, and the 1st Battalion-228th Aviation Regiment (consisting of some 18 aircraft, a mix of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters and CH-47 Chinook helicopters)." All the same I have found no evidence to suport the assertion that Wikipedia believes in Atlantis.

Central America, due west Pacific Coast - El Salvador

on the Pacific coast we find Comalapa FOL base which again does all the usual stuff: monitoring satellites, radar scanning of both ocean and sky and making sure the homemade submarines from the Colombian drug cartels don’t get lost as they take the pacific route to California. (I’m joking of course). Comalapa is for those interested in Shannon an installation which shares facilities and real estate if not canteen catering services with a commercial airport. got to save money somehow

South America Colombia - 3 current bases

Which brings us to Colombia where as we know there are now to be 7 new FOLs and which will bring the total of bases operated by the USA (which we know about) to 10 or “dix” as they say in French, hence “Dixie”. A nice round number I’m sure you’ll agree. The American is nothing but simple.

Aruaca base is located on the western border of Colombia with Venezuela. Its official purpose is monitor narco-traffic but its strategic location next to the primary oil and gas reserves of Venezuela has not gone without comment, nor has its perfect triangulation with the Puerto Rico and GITMO bases with the island FOL’s slap bang in the middle. Told you they’re simple folk.

Larandia base in the south of Colombia bordering Ecuador has one of those Knock airport size runways which the ungodly associate with the now quaint B52 long range bomber. It’s officially described as a helicopter training facility so young cadets can learn how to fly over jungles in a way which is possibly safer than how their forebears dropped LSD and then dropped Agent Orange on the Viet Cong.

Esquinas base in Colombia is due south east and sits in that corner of Colombia which
Borders both Brazil and Peru. Amongst its noble missions is the monitoring of rainfall, river flows and quite probably finding the lost civilizations rumoured by theosophists to this day to live around the source of the Nile, (or was it the Orinoco?). Anyway – when not doing that they simply just stay put, the usual, choppers, troops, sats – you name it – they’ve got it. Geographers checking all these locations on the map will notice the appearance of yet another “triangle”.

Peruvian Amazon bordering Colombia

If we fly like a condor due south from the last base in Colombia we find two adjoining bases in Peru, those of Iquitos & Nanay which form yet another little triangle with Esquinas Colombia or one bigger trianlge with Larandia Colombia, so big in fact that it takes in all of Ecuador. These bases are not US bases but belong to the Peruvian military in their Nanay Amazonian basin which have served recently to kick the shit out of indigenous communities protesting about oil and as a result of the top whack advice given to the Peruvians, far off –back then, by the US engineers when building the places, the Peruvians still feel beholden to welcome in their buddies whenever they’re around.

Ecuador Mantas base whose lease is up has been left out of this guide.


Fidel's letter today entitled:

The Empire and the Robots

Fidel quite rightly points out that US military spending is increasing immensely all the time and all talk of arms races in Latin America is ludicrous. He provides figures and wonders at the attempts of Obama "to sweat his paw" to provide health care when the Pentagon wants more than a thousand new F-22 and F-35 aircraft and aims to rely on drone craft by 2020.

As I wrote earlier this year when the secret defense estimates came out for the USA and offered us some idea of how much money they sink into "black budget" research - it's official Obama is 3% blacker than Bush

I'm running out of time now so will not translate the whole Castro article, but here is a link to it on TeleSUR and as I wrote above it is generating much more positive feedback than most of his weekly musings, ramblings, memories and exhortations do. Yep. I agree with Fidel on this one, Fidel agrees with me, & we are not alone.

Pity the US hadn't got their fisherfolk and common type saving radar systems up and running and could have saved the life of Camilo Cienfuegos back then, maybe the revolution would have turned out more anarchist and less commie. Pity the SOA trained Félix Rodríguez stopped Che. Pity the weather was so good in Latin America that half of ODESSA went there. Pity the Incas didn't have something nastier than syphilis and the flu to give the Europeans back.


part one of the series :
The new Latin American century, FARC, arms races, US bases & sundry fibs
part two of the series :
New Latin American century (part 2): Nixon, Pinochet, Brazil, Chile, US bases, declassified files

Those interested in looking at the locations of these bases and FOL’s may do so by going to this flash illustration prepared by TeleSUR today which kindly includes thanks to the Indymedia global network amongst others in its sourcing credits. The accompanying explanatory texts are of course in Spanish, but this article has already provided you with more information.

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