BY SANDINO MORAZÁN
If you’ve ever learned Latin American history in school, you’ll know it’s often taught that the last U.S. military invasion in the region took place in Panama in 1989.
That was when Washington ordered the ouster of former Panamanian military ruler Manuel Noriega, a longtime CIA collaborator who turned against his imperial overlords.
Since then, most Western educators claim, the United States’ military presence in Latin America has been minimal. However, anyone who’s followed the subsequent “War on Drugs” in Mexico, Plan Colombia and the U.S.-backed military coup in Honduras can attest to the ridiculousness of this claim.
The United States has indeed maintained its military presence in Latin America, but in ways that have been silenced in mainstream media. This seemingly-invisible omnipresence is intended to preserve the empire’s dominance in the region without the bad press that accompanies overt occupation.
The most recent example of this is AMAZONLOG, a series of U.S.-led military exercises deep in Brazil’s Amazon jungle.
Source: Google Maps
Between Nov. 6-13, troops from Brazil, Peru and Colombia — under the guidance of the U.S. Southern Command — held these exercises near Tabatinga, a remote jungle area that sits on the border between all three aforementioned countries. Two previous phases of AMAZONLOG, which took place in August and September, were based in nearby Manaus, the Amazon’s largest city.
Washington claimed the exercises are intended to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the area. But as Bolivian President Evo Morales pointed out, their only purpose is to maintain an imperialist stronghold in the heart of South America.
And even though they were the largest military exercises held in the history of Brazil’s Amazon, only a handful of publications covered them. A look at the geopolitical importance of the region reveals why AMAZONLOG represents the new silent U.S. invasion of Latin America.
Ever since right-wing Brazilian President Michel Temer took office in 2016, the South American country has once again become a client state of Washington. Not only has he slashed public programs introduced by previous progressive governments, benefiting private multinationals based on Wall Street. He has also openly invited the U.S. Armed Forces to set up shop in the Amazon, creating a new military platform for the imperialists.
It’s important to note that this is the same area where revolutionary groups like the Landless Workers’ Movement have strong bases of support against Temer and his neoliberal regime. For Washington, control over Brazil’s Amazon is of crucial geopolitical interest. It allows their accomplice, Temer, to stay in power while building their military strength in a location with close access to several countries.
In Peru, foreign mining companies backed by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski have ruthlessly exploited the country’s Amazon region in search of valuable resources, like timber and gold. A number of U.S.-funded illegal miners in the area have stolen wealth that belongs to local Indigenous people while destroying their environment.
Peru’s Amazon region has also been home to revolutionary Indigenous and environmental groups that have led protests against Kuczynski’s extractivism. Maintaining a stronghold in this location also allows Washington to keep another accomplice, Kuczynski, in power while profiting from timber and gold plundered from the ancestral lands.
Access to Colombia, another client state of the United States, presents additional benefits to Washington. Control of Brazil’s Amazon allows the U.S. Southern Command to easily cross the border into Colombia’s Amazon, a base of support for revolutionary campesino groups and former guerillas.
This is also an area where right-wing paramilitaries supported by Washington and Bogota commit some of the most atrocious murders and human rights violations of those suspected of being communists or agitators. By having another military stronghold near the Colombia-Brazil Amazon border, the United States can provide refuge for paramilitaries doing their dirty work in the region. They can also control drug trade there, which the U.S. government has been implicated in.
Venezuela and Bolivia
Finally, there’s Venezuela and Bolivia, the continent’s fiercest fighters against U.S. imperialism. The State of Amazonas, sandwiched between both countries, is an ideal location for pressure against these revolutionary socialist governments, which have undermined their authority. Just as the United States used Honduras as a base of operation during the 1980s against revolutionary movements in Nicaragua and El Salvador, it is doing the same in Brazil’s Amazon against Venezuela and Bolivia.
If right-wing opposition movements in both countries were ever able to topple the government, U.S. military officials would be able to provide assistance within minutes with their new base of operation.
As evidenced above, the new silent U.S. invasion of Latin America, which we can term “Operation Amazon,” is something we must all be aware of and fiercely combat.