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U.S. Navy’s 4th Fleet to Sail the Latin Seas

June 13, 2008

The United States Navy announced it is reactivating its 4th Fleet to patrol the Pacific and Atlantic, with a focus on Latin America and “narcoterrorism.”

Dormant since 1950, the fleet is expected to begin operations July 1.

“Re-establishing the 4th Fleet recognizes the immense importance of maritime security in the southern part of the Western Hemisphere,” a press release from Navy Adm. Gary Roughead states.

Military fact sheets generally explain six “strategic imperatives” for the 11-ship fleet: “limiting regional conflict with forwarddeployed decisive maritime power, deterring major power war, winning our nation’s wars, contributing to homeland defense in depth, fostering and sustaining cooperative relationships and preventing or containing local disruptions before they impact the global system,” according to one fact sheet.

The fact sheet notes U.S. interests in the region and states, “Regional economic stability is a must. Approximately 40 percent of U.S. trade and 50 percent of oil imports are within this hemisphere, including more than 33 percent of energy imports.”

In March, three South American powers came to the brink of war. Venezuela and Ecuador rattled their sabers at Colombia after the Bogota-based government allegedly violated Ecuador’s sovereignty by bombing a camp on Ecuadorian soil, killing Raúl Reyes, the No. 2 in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and numerous others.

Asked by Bloomberg Online whether the 4th Fleet’s activation was intended to send a message to Venezuela, Adm. James Stevenson replied, “(The fleet could) certainly bring a lot more stature to the area and increase our ability to get things done.”

While the U.S. press releases mention cooperation between nations, Costa Rican Public Security Minister Janina del Vecchio told The Tico Times she hadn’t heard of the fleet’s activation. Although Costa Rica has no official military, it has a coast guard, which del Vecchio oversees.

She said U.S. authorities would have to coordinate with her to be able to enter the country’s territorial waters, which extend 12 nautical miles from the coast.

The 4th Fleet will be coordinated by a Navy office in Mayport, Florida, and the U.S. Southern Command (Southcom) in Miami.

Southcom consists of Army, Navy, Air Force,Marine and Coast Guard units under the leadership of a four-star general. It is responsible for “contingency planning, operations, and security cooperation for Central and South America, the Caribbean, Cuba, the Bahamas and their territorial waters.”

Bloomberg online reported that the lead ship in the 4th fleet is a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.

The 4th Fleet was originally established in 1943 to “wage relentless war against raiders, blockade runners and submarines in the South Atlantic,” a military Web site states.

Navy spokesman Sean Robertson said with the July activation, there will be six active fleets globally.

nwilkinson@ticotimes.net

 

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