US Army General discusses the importance of security in Latin America and beyond in panel discussion

geopoliticsGeneral Richardson speaks about her past experience | Conor Moore, PantherNOW

Conor Moore | Assistant News Director

General Laura J. Richardson, four-star army general and head of the United States Southern Command discussed geopolitics and US influence in Latin America. 

Sponsored by foreign policy think tank Council on Foreign Relations, the event was hosted by the Jack D. Gordon Institute as part of the “Fireside Chat” series.

US Southern Command, headquartered out of Doral, Florida, is responsible for planning operations, security and contingencies in LATAM and the Caribbean.

General Richardson spoke candidly about her experience in leadership, as well as her 37-year service in the U.S. Army.

“It goes by really fast and I’m so glad I’ve been able to be a part of this,” Richardson said. “Watching heads of state drive challenges, being a fly on the wall in support of somebody else that was in the lead. I’ve been very honored to serve at the White House.and was the Vice President’s military aide that served on Capitol Hill, as well as in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Furthermore, General Richardson was asked about the role of China in Latin America, particularly on the impacts of the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Investment by the Chinese is very focused on critical infrastructure, such as deepwater ports and 5G telecommunications. That’s where predominantly I say they get in, through economics,” said Richardson. People are having a hard time and you already have the economic impact of COVID-19 and migration.”

“They’re using our own playbook against us, they’re getting better each and every day. They offer professional military training to Beijing. For a year to four year program”, she said in regards to growing Chinese power and aid to many countries in Latin America,

Her frank discussion of Chinese influence, economically and military in Latin America, has been subject to analysis by several foreign policy experts who see China as upending American influence in the region.

Russian interference in US domestic affairs as well as the spread of misinformation by foreign news outlets also came up.

“They don’t practice verification journalism. You have journalists masquerading as professionals not exposed yet. We’re here to make sure that our partners do good things and not malignant activity. If you’re trying to undermine democracy, undermine the leaders,” said Richardson. “This information proper to elections and leading up to them spikes that. Then we try to counter that, try to find it.”

Economic development into Latin America was also a sticking point for General Richardson.

“We need more investment into Latin America. Economic security is national security. Their economies are hurting.”

“It’s not any special magic that makes things happen, it’s meetings like this that make things happen”, General Richardson concluded after the discussion when speaking about what the average citizen can do in regard to security.

“You guys help make things happen, all right here, by showing there’s potential.” 

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