Last month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, announced that the Quadrennial Defense Review reflects the realities of a tired and broken U.S. military incapable of stopping escalation by our enemies. There goes deterrence. Then, we announced that we are going back to pre-World War II military levels.
Not surprisingly the Russians escalated in the Ukraine and decided to take Crimea. Unfortunately, we have become so dependent on Russia, politically speaking, that Russian President Vladimir Putin is playing high-level chess and checking us at every opportunity. We did say that we needed their support to control the development of nuclear facilities in Iran, and they agreed.
Then we agreed to allow Russia to continue selling Iran key elements for their nuclear facility, trusting that the Russians would do the right thing. Russia shrugged its shoulders and continued selling items to Iran as we turned to another shiny object. Then, we drew lines in the sand and threatened military force unless the Syrians eliminated their chemical weapons. Putin assured us that he would take care of everything, and once again nothing happened after we stepped back.
As of now, we are in no position to influence anything. Our bald eagle is clawless. Putin is claiming the world, one region at a time, starting in his own backyard.
All this, while in our backyard Venezuela is on fire, with dozens killed by the national police, hundreds wounded, scores arrested and not to be seen again, and over a million protesters on the streets demanding that the communist, Cuban-supported, repressive government of Nicolas Maduro resign and Chavez-Castro communism is replaced with democracy.
What is eerily absent is commentary from the international community as it waits for a strong U.S. position. Of course, we are the beacon of democracy, and taking care of our backyard would be foremost — you would think. Remember the Monroe Doctrine? However, we stopped caring about Latin America in 1990, with the exception of a few local folks believing that Cuba's ties to Tampa and its future potential can be the economic savior of Florida. That may be so, but not at the expense of ignoring the No. 1 one priority of the low-hanging fruit of thriving economies in Latin America for investment here, today.
The embargo has not been successful in toppling Cuba's Castro, but I saw the Castro regime influenced by the Soviet Union and then Russia, as well as billions in investment by European resorts buying land in Cuba and investing in hotels for 45 years, and the Cuban people still live in misery.
Everybody gives Cuba money, and nobody gets anything of substance in return, except debt and promises. Russia understands how “uncaring” our Latin American policy is, so, as we look at the rest of the world, the Russians, with the help of the Cubans and Venezuela, are peppering our backyard with influence.
Russia is capitalizing on the United States' inaction by conducting for the past four years naval deployments to Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua. For eight years, Russia has deployed long-range bombers to Venezuela. Now Russia is negotiating bases in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Singapore and the Seychelles — all in the sphere of U.S. influence, kicking us in the teeth in the process.
As we ignore Latin America, with its buying power — Brazil, $245 billion; Panama, $18 billion; Peru, $41 billion; Chile, $78 billion — Russia and China absorb Latin America.
So there you have it. The United States is ignoring Latin America for expanded trade and investment in the United States. It is high time that options for economic investments in the U.S., specifically Florida, from capital-rich Latin American investors take center stage. Doing otherwise will allow the Russians, Cuba and China to influence Latin America any way they want.
Evelio “EJ” Otero is a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.