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You Are Here: Home » Dossiers » Ingrid Betancourt’s release, the return of the U. S. Fourth Fleet and John McCain Latin America tour

By Yves DussetSpecial to CSMS magazineWhile Democrat Barack Obama embarks up on a historic, patriotism tour which began with a speech delivered in Independence Missouri on Monday to end on July 4th, Republican candidate John McCain is touring Latin America. In Colombia yesterday, he reaffirmed the US commitment to maintaining all bilateral agreements signed with that South American country, including strong military support to the Colombian army. It may not have been a coincidence that his visit coincided with the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt, FARC most famous hostage held in captivity for more than 6 years.Betancourt’s rescue was greeted with jubilation in both in Washington and in Paris, where Ingrid holds dual nationalities (French-Colombian).The news media are now predicting the elimination of the FARC (Revolutionary Arm Forces of Colombia), which has been waging a guerrilla war against the Colombian government since the 1960s. FARC, which has been suffering from blows after blows since the death of its leaders Manuel Marulanda last spring, was, without a doubt, dealt a major blow, both politically and military. According to The Associated Press, the rescue was done without a single shot being fired, when Colombian soldiers dressed in Che Guevara’s T-shirt managed to lure Betancourt captives into a trap, making them to think that they were FARC rebels relocating the hostages.    Although McCain denied it, but it would be hard to imagine that the rescue was only an indigenous operation successfully executed by the Colombian army—an army that critics believe to be sophisticatedly equipped with the latest high-tech weaponry made in the USA.    Following Colombia, McCain headed for Mexico, where he continued to play statesmanship, talking about trade in order issues—like immigration—pertinent to Hispanic voters in the November election.McCain tour also coincides with the return of the United States Fourth Fleet to the region. Campaigning under the banner of “A Leader We Can Believe In,’’ McCain’s visit also raises an important question: Why is The US Fourth Fleet is back patrolling Latin America’s territorial waters? According to the Argentine Newspaper El Clarin, the Fourth Fleet is back, but “this time [it is] under the command of Rear Admiral Joseph Kernan. Kernan who, up till now has been Commander of Naval Special Warfare Command, has a background that is rather worrying.” El Clarin went on to write that “the naval officer belongs to the Navy SEALs, an elite commando team made up of men chosen for the toughest of special operations, trained to act in the most adverse and challenging conditions.”This latest naval manoeuvrings have many Latin American watchers worried. Some argue that a prospective McCain administration could signal the return of Teddy Roosevelt gunboat diplomacy at a time when emerging powers like China and India are flexing their muscles, chipping away spheres of influence just recently were considered traditional backyard of either Russia or the United States.  They see no reason why the United States have to send such a powerful naval force to the region now quite peaceful, without nuclear power and without any real military conflicts or threats.Professor Khatchik Der Ghougassian of the Argentine University of San Andrés, a well known an expert on security matters, questions the latest move.  “They are never going to admit that it is because of natural resources, but it is no coincidence that this decision comes just when a structural change in world economy is beginning, in which reserves of fresh water, food and energy resources take on a position of important strategic value.”The professor goes on to say that “They do not hide the enormous importance of the oceans of the southern Western Hemisphere and they admit that this will increase their capacity for action since the U.S. Fourth Fleet will be supervising ships and aircraft, including both civilian and commercial navigating south of the United States.”One thing is certain: John McCain, who makes foreign policy the cornerstone of his electoral campaign, will not hesitate to capitalize on these latest developments to display his showmanship in an area considered to be his rival, Barack Obama, weakest link.Obama still has the edge, because the economy, not foreign policy, is top issue for the voters. And this is Obama’s biggest advantage.   See also Can the death of Marulanda finally bring peace to Colombia?Colombia’s cross-border military incursion into Ecuador could spark regional conflagrationNote: Yves Dusset is an assistant professor at University of North Florida. He wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.

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