This October marked the 25th Anniversary of "Urgent Fury," the intervention in the country of Grenada. Called for by prime ministers from various Caribbean countries and the governor general of Grenada, this action was the last overt act of U.S. foreign policy in the Caribbean. It had dramatic results; the expansion of leftist ideology in the region was halted. Cuba was sent packing, and the United States showed the rest of the world it was watching its own backyard.
Today, to use a quote, "It's like deja vu, all over again."
Utilizing combined massive oil revenues, and economic success, China and Venezuela have begun to spread communist and leftist ideologies throughout this region. Grenada, having succumbed to these political subversion and special funding programs, has brought back from the past the same people the United States removed, who have worked their way back into power and have begun their old ways under new handlers, Hugo Chavez, China, and now potentially Iran.
Mr. Chavez of Venezuela and the premier of China have different but cooperating agendas for this region. Mr. Chavez, in order to spread anti-Americanism, under the tutelage of his mentor Fidel Castro, has deftly used oil, and oil revenues to sway elections, buy politicians and gain control over the economic futures of many of the small island nations of the Caribbean. Utilizing this control, he has now brought in his other compatriot in crime, Iran.
Iranian Hezbollah has set up training camps in Venezuela. It is expected that these "trainers" will then expand their operations, reported to be drug and weapons smuggling, and money laundering, to the countries Iran has established diplomatic relations with in the region.
This is not news to the United States.
The U.S. Navy and State Department are both well aware of this recent activity. An example is that of St. Vincent, (a large drug transfer point in the Caribbean), which has Iran providing funds for a new airport. The U.S. Ambassador to region recently asked the prime minster to break off budding relations with Iran. Needless to say, the ambassador was rebuked.
This is a growing trend in the region, with centrist governments all facing extreme economic pressures, the leftists in their countries are seizing these opportunities to expand their base through the use of Venezuelan, Chinese and Iranian economic assistance. This danger to the United States is extreme, with Iran and its surrogates Hezbollah setting up facilities so close to the United States and its allies, potentially providing a fifth column of unprecedented scale. The U.S. Navy has been watching this growing problem with alarm and with good reason. Publicly stating their concern with the possible Iranian ability to smuggle weapons into the United States, or potentially provide weapons of mass destruction to agents within borders, is being practiced and perfected.
China is expanding in the region to enlarge its resource base, its customer base, remove support for Taiwan and to further leftist expansion in Latin America.
By providing the Caribbean countries with economic assistance, they leave no doubt of the support they expect by requiring the receiving countries to break relations with Taiwan. Second, they move the country from the America-centric orbit and have them start purchasing goods and services, becoming dependent on China not the United States. By providing funds to left-wing parties, China can assure itself of long-term influence in the economic interest of these countries. Doing so expands anti-U.S. rhetoric through out the region and further undermines Taiwan's support in the United Nations.
So what now? The U.S. needs to re-establish its position in the Caribbean region. We have multiple national security reasons for this.
Mr. Chavez is expanding narcotics and weapons smuggling in the region, utilizing his friends Hezbollah. We know from his actions, or inaction against drug traffickers in Venezuela, that he is not only supporting this activity but also receiving funding from them. His purchase from the Russians of weapons and weapons production rights clearly demonstrates his intentions. We need to shut this down before it becomes, as has often been stated, a "clear and present danger." We cannot afford to allow Iran to establish a foothold in our region, lest we will surely pay a price.
If United States re-establishes our positions, China's ability to expand its economic and political initiatives will be blunted. Mr. Chavez's Bolivar Revolution can be halted.
One has to remember, China is one of Iran's largest purchasers of oil. Next to the United States, China is the largest purchaser of Venezuelan oil. Of every dollar Americans and citizens of the Caribbean send to China, a percentage of it will work its way back to Iran and Mr. Chavez for their efforts to destroy our country and its allies in the Caribbean.
We must send a strong message to our friends in the Caribbean that we are there, and to our enemies an even stronger message, "We are watching."
Howard Whetzel is former US Army Officer and Intelligence Specialist.