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James Stavridis

U.S. and Colombia Can Bring Order to Caribbean Chaos

Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela have brought revolution and refugees back to the region.

Another day in paradise for refugees.

Another day in paradise for refugees.

Photographer: Joaquin Sarmiento/AFP/Getty Images

For many Americans, the Caribbean Sea conjures up visions of gorgeous beaches, friendly resorts and sparkling turquoise waters. Unfortunately, this has become a very difficult summer in the region, showing why the U.S. needs to devote more attention to its closest neighbors. From Cuba and Haiti in the north to Venezuela in the south and Nicaragua in the west, red danger flags are flying.

I know this part of the world well, having been born in south Florida and then serving as commander of U.S. Southern Command for three eventful years in the late 2000s. The focus then was on Colombia, which was under threat from the virulent insurgency of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia. This Marxist terrorist organization, closely aligned with the drug cartels, nearly caused the government to collapse.