An increase in the number of migrants crossing the southern border, threats to the Western Hemisphere by China and solutions to these and other problems were discussed today at a hearing of the Armed Services Committee of the Senate.
Air Force General Glen D. VanHerck and submarine Craig S. Faller testified at the hearing. VanHerck is the commander of United States Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command; Faller is the commander of US Southern Command.
“Today more than ever, I feel a sense of urgency in the face of the global threats we face here in our neighborhood. This region is our home. This neighborhood is our home. It is a shared neighborhood. It’s a hemisphere that is of vital national interest to the United States, ”Faller said.
The biggest threats to the hemisphere are China and transnational criminal organizations, he noted.
The Chinese Communist Party, with its insidious and corrupt influence, seeks to dominate the regional and global economy, in its own version of a rules-based international order, Faller said.
As proof, he said that China is rapidly increasing its influence here in the Americas, working on more than 40 port deals, granting large loans for political and economic influence, pushing its own information technology structure and indulging in to predatory practices that include and unreported fishing, mining and logging.
“We have seen many of these tactics in Asia and Africa. We cannot let them prevail here in our neighborhood,” he added.
Transnational criminal organizations pose a direct threat to U.S. national security, Faller said. They traffic in weapons, people and dangerous drugs that kill tens of thousands of people in America every year.
“These deadly tactics have resulted in 43 of the world’s 50 most violent cities in this hemisphere being present, and they are the root of illegal migration, and they are allowing bad actors like China to gain traction. influence, ”he said.
Dozens of countries, including Brazil and Colombia, have carried out counter-transnational criminal operations and have assigned some of their forces to high-end training in the United States, he said, praising their efforts.
Faller mentioned that the Drug Enforcement Agency cited Chinese money laundering as the first underwriter of transnational criminal organizations.
On another topic, Faller said the COVID-19 pandemic and two hurricanes had hit this hemisphere hard. According to the International Monetary Fund, the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean shrank 7.4% in 2020.
“The impacts of the pandemic, like a perfect storm, will change the hemisphere for years to come,” Faller said.
To help alleviate suffering, Southcom has stepped up its humanitarian aid programs, contributing to more than 450 projects last year in 28 countries, he said.
“Overall, the United States is the leader in humanitarian assistance in Latin America and the Caribbean,” he said.
Southcom is also working every day to enhance the readiness of its military partners through security cooperation, Faller said. This includes institutional capacity building, legal training, education and exercises.
“We are focused on developing professional military forces who know how to fight and use military force,” Faller said, adding that Southcom also focuses on human rights training, women’s assistance programs, peace and security programs and the development of non-commissioned officers.
A modest increase in investment in these programs and in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance would be particularly useful in assisting partner nations, Faller added, noting that Southcom only receives about 1% of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities. recognition of DOD.
Faller also praised the US Coast Guard, which has worked alongside other military services and partner countries in the region.
On migration, particularly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, VanHerck said the number of migrants crossing the border has increased significantly in recent months.
In addition to these countries, an increase in migrants from other countries in Africa and Asia are also crossing the border, according to intelligence reports, he added.
VanHerck said Northcom is supporting the Department of Homeland Security in its efforts to secure the southern border of the United States.
“We provide support in the form of air support for detection and surveillance and ground support for vehicle maintenance,” he said, noting that about 4,000 DOD personnel, almost all from the National Guard provide this assistance.
Later that day, Faller and VanHerck also hosted a joint Pentagon press briefing, where they spoke on related topics.
Faller said Cuba, Russia, Iran and China support a corrupt regime in Venezuela that harbors transnational terrorists. He said multinational efforts should be aimed at putting pressure on the regime.