The U.S. Southern Command on Oct. 6 singled out China as one of four states that are posing serious security problems in Latin America along with Russia, Cuba, and Iran.
At a Defense Writers Group event in Washington, Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller said he has seen Russia, China, Iran, and Cuba operating in different capacities in Latin America.
Regarding China, Faller highlighted its major economic interests in the region, as well as in the areas of information technology and cyberspace.
The military reported that the regime of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has created training schools and centers in Spanish and that, in addition to military sales, it has delivered hardware to several nations.
“Russian weapons systems sales [are] in the billions, and China’s [are] increasing. China is also gifting a lot of military hardware to … partners. The extent to which it undermines partnerships with the U.S. [and] contributes to instability … is a concern for the security of the U.S.,” Faller explained.
Controversial cybervigilance systems
Although Faller did not give details about the type of equipment that the CCP has provided to certain countries, it is known that one of its most important telecommunications companies, ZTE, has been helping Nicolás Maduro’s regime to control Venezuelans with the so-called the homeland card implemented two years ago, according to Reuters.
Another example is in the province of Jujuy, Argentina, where ZTE will build a gigantic surveillance network through security cameras, which has raised concern in various sectors of Argentine society and the international community.
“China gathers and exploits data on an unrivaled scale, and uses the information to promote corruption, support arbitrary surveillance, and silence dissent,” a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department’s Western Hemisphere Affairs Bureau said in a statement, in which she expressed her government’s “concern” about it, according to Reuters.
Infrastructure ‘trap’ agreements
Faller also noted that the CCP has 56 port agreements in Latin America.
The modus operandi of the Chinese communist regime is to offer countries that do not have sufficient economic resources the construction of communications infrastructures such as ports, bridges, roads and airports.
The Chinese regime controls those infrastructures for the use of which they charge and this also allows them to bring all kinds of goods from China into the continent without any kind of control or tariffs.
“Some of those deals are locked up with onerous leasing agreements,” Faller said, and “some of those agreements have left host nations with little access to and little control over what the Chinese have built.”
“Thousands of acres, and they have the ability to control the tolls on that road for 99 years,” explained Faller.
“That’s the price you get for having the Chinese come in and build a road. We’ve been watching that closely, and it has our attention and has contributed to a sense of urgency I feel about the overall security,” he added.
Russia, Iran, and Cuba
Faller also spoke about the support Russia is giving to Maduro’s regime in Venezuela, to whom it sells arms and offers security assistance.
He said Russia “has deployed nuclear-capable bombers [and] Russia has deployed their most advanced warship that is capable of firing nuclear cruise missiles throughout the region, all within the last year.”
Faller also raised the issue Tuesday during a hearing before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee and confirmed the presence of Russian troops in Venezuela, according to EFE.
“Hundreds of Russians—both forces and contractors—are in Venezuela helping Maduro continue his reign of terror on the nation,” Faller denounced.
Regarding Iran, Faller said that the Tehran regime is exerting influence in the area, especially in terrorist activities.
“We have uncovered terrorist plots,” he said. “We know that there is a significant Lebanese Hezbollah presence through the region.”
“Iran’s hand is in this. They are the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world,” he concluded.
As for Cuba, the military said it has proven that all of what he called the Venezuelan ‘palace guard’ who protects Maduro are Cubans.
Working with the countries in the area, knowing their needs and seeking ways to support them is, according to Faller, the best way to counter the threats posed by China, Russia, Cuba, and Iran in Latin America.
“And it’s different country to country,” he said.