Yleem and I are huge fans of the Caribbean region. With the exception of police states Cuba and Venezuela, and maybe Nicaragua in the not too distant future, you have plenty of options including more than twenty sovereign states and a about a dozen dependent territories. Dependent territories are places such as Puerto Rico. The United States, United Kingdom, Netherlands, and France lay claim to several Caribbean territories.
Granted that travel to this part of the world is not for everyone, especially if you’re used to easier travel destinations such as Western Europe or economically advanced nations anywhere in the world. However, well researched and planned, visiting the region can be extremely rewarding and, well, fun. Since I enjoy political travel, I tend to focus on things that maybe are somewhat odd to most folks, including my wife. But she humors me, maybe a little too much at times. There is a lot of history as well as interesting cultures and people to meet. So put it on your bucket list.
Anyhow, at recent presser by the outgoing SOUTHCOM Commander, General John Kelly, caught my attention because I’d been tipped off to what he was talking about a long time ago. Do not alter your travel plans based on any of this. Most of the Caribbean region countries and territories are safe to visit.
On January 8 General Kelly briefed reporters at the Pentagon for what appears to be the last time as SOUTHCOM Commander. Gen. Kelly said a few things that barely registered with the mainstream media related to what he said were a few “very, very radical mosques” in the Caribbean and worth disseminating. Disinterest in regional matters is common. Look at the Cuba situation. Most people have no idea that Cuba is a police state, yet they are packing their bags to visit in record numbers.
Next time you listen to a politician talk about immigration reform or related issues that go hand in hand with immigration reform such as border security, keep in mind what General Kelly said at the Pentagon earlier this month, and many times prior:
There are a fair amount of Muslims in what –were the old English colonies down there, Jamaica, and Trinidad, Tobago, a few places like that. Overall, not a huge percentage of the population, but significant … [t]here’s a few very, very radical mosques; one in particular that’s associated itself, himself, the imam with ISIS. We are not seeing huge numbers. I said 100 last year [to Congress], I’m not sure — 150 this year, we know a few have been killed.
The good news is that SOUTHCOM and a few other U.S. agencies seem on top of it. The folks at SOUTHCOM, especially, are particularly sensitive to Islamic terror in the Americas and are thought leaders on these matters. They should receive a whole lot more funding than they do.
Recall that the Iranians helped orchestrate, and I’ve argued pioneered waging terror in the Americas, since the early 1990s with two separate terrorist attacks in Argentina.
Keep in mind that what Gen. Kelley is talking about goes beyond the Caribbean region. There are reports, albeit unsubstantiated but some credible, of radicalized Muslims operating in places that you would not ordinarily expect such as in Venezuela and Nicaragua, among others. We have a posts on the subject dating to 2008, 2012, and many more. Follow the hyperlinks and you should be able to access most of them.
General Kelly also shared, what he and prior commanders have stressed in the past to this administration as well as the Congress, that these poor Caribbean and Latin American nations are simply not equipped to deal with this growing threat:
They [countries in the region and elsewhere in the world] don’t have TSA [Transportation Security Administration]. They don’t really have the same kinds of things at the airports that we do, in terms of checking the comings and goings of people. So, we do the best we can to help them. I am more concerned particularly now, it seems like the Islamic extremists and terrorists have shifted a lot of their message, and that is, hey, rather than come to Syria, why don’t you stay at home and do San Bernardino, or do Boston, or do Fort Hood …
General Kelly added:
… even just a few of these, you know, nuts can cause an awful lot of trouble down in the Caribbean because they don’t have an FBI, they don’t have law enforcement like we do …
Congress and, particularly this administration, have been repeatedly told of these challenges. Yet U.S. taxpayers are not investing nearly enough in the military or in targeted foreign assistance projects to deal with these security issues. That must change.