US Southern Command Facilities
The US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Area of Responsibility encompasses 31 countries and 15 areas of special sovereignty. The region represents about one-sixth of the landmass of the world assigned to regional unified commands. SOUTHCOM's Area of Responsibility includes: The land mass of Latin America south of Mexico, the waters adjacent to Central and South America, and the Caribbean Sea.
The US military mission in Venezuela occupied a small building on the sprawling Fuerte Tiuna military base, Venezuela's Pentagon. In August 2001, the Venezuelan armed forces announced that the mission would be shut down. The government said it needed the office space, but observers in the US took it as a clear sign that President Hugo Chavez wanted to distance his generals from their American allies.
United States law allowed up to 500 US military personnel and 300 civilian contract personnel to be deployed in Colombia at any given time. According to US officials, as of late 2002 there were on average about 120 American pilots and other private contractors in Colombia's anti-narcotics program at any one time. They provided counterinsurgency instruction, maintain listening outposts, or monitor air traffic from any of 5 US-built rural radar stations, among various other tasks. American personnel served as liaison officers at the Colombian Joint Intelligence Center in the southern base of Tres Esquinas, which the US helped set up.
As of the early 2000s, Military personnel also were deployed in Peru at 3 US-built radar stations, in addition to hundreds of troops helping to refurbish an air base in Manta, Ecuador, and to construct several military bases in Bolivia. The United States also ran military surveillance flights from the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao. No information was available about the number of CIA and other intelligence personnel operating in the region.
Prior to the election of President Rafael Correa in 2006, Ecuador seemed to have moved into the forefront of integrated US military planning and operations. New facilities had been established at the port city of Manta, Special Force units from the US Southern Command operated alongside some 5,000 Ecuadorian troops of the 19th Napo and 21st Condor Jungle Infantry Brigades on the borders of Colombia, while other specialist US forces operated radar stations tracking the drug-cartel's aircraft and manned secret listening posts on behalf of the NSA to monitor communications.