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DoD: Venezuela Situation ‘Dire’

Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2020 and the Future Years Defense Program.

Southcom’s area of responsibility includes Latin America south of Mexico, the waters adjacent to Central and South America, and the Caribbean Sea.

Top Concern

Faller said his top concern is Venezuela, where “the situation is dire. [Nicolas] Maduro’s illegitimate government starves its people by using food as a weapon, while corrupt generals are rewarded with money from illegal drug trafficking, oil profits and businesses, all at the expense of the population and the rank and file military.”

    • About 5 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015, creating a crisis in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru.
    • External state actors are expanding their influence in the Western Hemisphere, Faller said. Russia in particular, “enables actions in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba that threaten hemispheric security and prosperity,” he said. As a leading state sponsor of terrorism, Iran’s activities in this hemisphere also are concerning, Faller noted.
    • “Southcom is supporting diplomatic efforts and we are prepared to protect U.S. personnel and diplomatic facilities if necessary” in Venezuela, he said.
    • Other ongoing concerns in the region include criminal organizations, narcotraffickers, illegal immigration, violent extremists, corruption and weak governments.

Partnership Strategy

The U.S. is building strong partnerships with Southcom nations, Faller said, noting that these partnerships are not just military to military, but are also diplomatic partnerships by the State Department and by other organizations, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development and the departments of Justice and Homeland Security.

“Our security and prosperity are inextricably linked,” he said. “When our neighbors succeed, we succeed. And when our neighbors are threatened, we are threatened. Our partnerships in this region are critical to the layered defense of our homeland.”

Source: Department of Defense

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