Photo: Leon Panetta in Latin America
The United States Defense Secretary, Leon Panetta left Monday for a tour of three South American countries, Colombia, Brazil, and Chile, in an effort to discuss drug trafficking, arms deals and aiding Latin American militaries. Panetta is looking to collaborate with these three countries and as also provide more military training for the smaller countries in Central America as well as Africa that are currently fighting the drug trade.
According to George Little, a spokesman for the Pentagon, “These are three countries that are on the upswing in many areas. It’s time for us to enhance our already strong cooperation with all three.”
The Defense Secretary has a busy agenda during his visit. In Brazil, he will focus on weapons deals involving Brazil and the United States. These deals involve both governments as well as unspecified companies from each country. It is also believed that potential deals involving military aircraft will take place.
In Colombia, Panetta will stop in the city of Bogota and discuss efforts in the fight against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia guerrilla group, also known as FARC. Under an aid program, Plan Colombia, the United States currently has close to 150 military trainers as well as about 150 contractors working in Colombia. This program has cost the U.S. more than $7 billion since 2000.
While in Chile, Panetta plans to discuss efforts by Chile to patrol the coast of Central America. Currently Guatemala’s Pacific coast has become a hot spot for methamphetamine as well as other drugs coming from the eastern Pacific. The Defense Secretary also plans to discuss increasing humanitarian aid among the region’s militaries.