Partnerships

Southcom Commander: Venezuela Situation 'Dire'

Feb. 7, 2019 | BY David Vergun

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.

The USNS Comfort at anchor
Cool Comfort
The hospital ship USNS Comfort anchors off the coast of Honduras as part of an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative, Dec. 6, 2018. Working with health and government partners in Ecuador, Peru, Colombia and Honduras, medical teams are providing care on board and at land-based medical sites, helping to relieve pressure on medical systems. The deployment reflects the United States’ enduring promise of friendship, partnership and solidarity with the Americas.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Bigley
VIRIN: 181206-N-LL146-1644C
Troops install window frame
Working Troops
U.S. and Salvadoran soldiers build an addition to a school at Santa Rita, La Paz department, El Salvador, June 25, 2018. The construction was part of the U.S. Army South-led exercise Beyond the Horizon, which ran May 12-Aug. 4, 2018.
Photo By: David Vergun, DOD
VIRIN: 180625-D-UB488-001
A sailor looks out from a helicopter flying over grasslands.
Colombia View
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Nicholas Glass looks out from an MH-60S Seahawk over the landscape near Turbo, Colombia, Nov. 14, 2018, during a medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Scott Bigley
VIRIN: 181114-N-LL146-1444C

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.

Nurse talks to group of people
Navy Nurses
From left, Navy Lt. Melissa Mathers and Navy Lt. j.g. Karen Jimenez Gudino, both nurses assigned to the hospital ship USNS Comfort, explain cleaning procedures for a young patient’s catheter line to Honduran nurses during a subject matter expert exchange in Trujillo, Honduras, Dec. 13, 2018. Comfort was on an 11-week medical support mission to Central and South America as part of U.S. Southern Command’s Enduring Promise initiative.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jailene Casso
VIRIN: 181213-N-BN355-1053

"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."