Newspaper ‘The Morning Star’ has astonishingly suggested that RFA Mounts Bay is in the Caribbean to take part in an invasion of Venezuela.
The outlet acknowledges in the article that the Royal Navy claims the vessel is working on counternarcotics operations with the US Southern Command, however, it then creates a very tenuous link to any potential action, referring to the work with US Southern Command, saying “it is this branch of the Pentagon that would lead any attack on Venezuela”.
The vessel and others like her work with US Southern Command on every deployment for many years. They have yet to invade Venezuela.
The story revolves around quotes from Venezuela Solidarity Campaign secretary Francisco Dominguez, who told the Morning Star:
“We are extremely concerned that Britain may join any military attack unleashed by the US against Venezuela.”
Another of the quotes used is from Stop the War Coalition campaigner Mayer Wakefield, saying:
“Britain’s recent history of catastrophic military interventions should rule out any UK participation in Donald Trump’s attempts to destabilise a democratically elected government in Venezuela.”
So you know when we get really worried about Russian ships in the Channel, well the Royal Navy recently parked a troop ship within 50 miles of #Venezuela… https://t.co/BzqOkgeeI0 @M_Star_Online @markcurtis30 @KennardMatt @STWuk pic.twitter.com/hSFf8aB1n1
— Phil Miller (@pmillerinfo) February 5, 2019
The trouble is, this “troop ship” that’s to be used in some sort of military action is operating in a disaster relief role and is incapable of single handedly invading a country like Venezuela.
The Bay class are operated by the Royal Fleet Auxiliary and are officially designated as ‘Landing Ship Docks’, however, they often act as platforms for disaster relief or as motherships for mine countermeasure vessels.
RFA Mounts Bay deployed to the Caribbean to provide support during the 2017 hurricane season. She was tasked to assist in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations at Anguilla, British Virgin Islands, and Turks and Caicos Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in September 2017.
Even as recently as last week, ateam deployed to the auxiliary were reportedly conducting a training exercise when the helicopter’s crew spotted a bale of drugs bobbing in the water.
According to the Royal Navy, the boarding team then recovered the object, tested the contents and reported that the bale contained around 50lbs (22kg) of marijuana – worth upwards of £4m to dealers in the UK.
“The Bay-class ship embarked a Dolphin helicopter from the US Coast Guard’s HITRON – Helicopter Interdiction Tactical squadRON – and its counter-narcotics boarding team, the LEDET (Legal Enforcement DETachment) – earlier this month. The bale was subsequently handed over to a US Coast Guard cutter Isaac Mayo for destruction.”
Captain Angus Bissell, RFA Mounts Bay’s Commanding Officer, said:
“This demonstrated that UK and US forces working in partnership, a great unity of effort, are committed to – and showing success in reducing – the flow of drugs throughout the Wider Caribbean Region.”
RFA Mounts Bay is the UK’s long-term naval presence in the Caribbean, dedicating her summers and autumns to disaster relief operations in the wake of hurricanes which strike with devastating frequency, while the rest of her year is focused on counter drugs patrols.
What about Belize?
The article goes into detail regarding Belize, saying:
“Meanwhile, British marines are conducting jungle warfare training in Belize. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has described their deployment as routine.
Initially, the marines were based at British Army Training Support Unit Belize, a permanent base adjacent to the country’s international airport.”
Belize isn’t a jumping off point for an invasion, it hosts the British Army Training Support Unit. The British Army Training Support Unit Belize (BATSUB) is manned by 12 permanent staff and employs more than 100 local civilians.
The garrison is used primarily for jungle warfare training, with access to over 5,000 square miles of jungle terrain, provided by the Government of Belize.
But why are troops there?
The Unit carries out up to five dismounted close combat exercises per year, of varying size, as well as hosting the final exercise of the notoriously tough British Army Platoon Commander’s Battle Course, which runs three times a year. It has been doing this for decades.
What about the “military aircraft” mentioned?
The article also cites a recent trip to the region by an RAF transport aircraft as further potential evidence of upcoming British military action.
“On February 2 the RAF released aerial photos of the Belize coastline, saying that its personnel were supporting “army exercises in Central America”
The trouble with this? It happens frequently every per year and has done for decades.
What does this all mean?
The claim that an auxiliary vessel equipped for disaster relief, 60 troops and a singular transport aircraft that is now back in the UK constitutes a realistic contribution to an invasion of Venezuela is absurd.
It seems to me that someone who is unfamiliar with British military deployments has taken something that has gone on for a very long time as a reaction to recent events.