The dynamics of world trade are changing. A consortium of European companies is deepening and expanding the Panama Canal in a project that may trigger a once-in-a-century shakeup of maritime commerce.
Once this expansion is complete, the canal will have a third lane capable of accommodating megaships nearly three times larger than any vessel that has thus far transited the isthmus. Transoceanic freighters from China will have enhanced access to the coalfields of Colombia, the soy plantations of Brazil and the ports of the American East Coast. Transoceanic freighters from Europe will have enhanced access to the copper mines of Chile, the ports of the American West Coast and even to consumers in the Orient—should the route through the Suez Canal prove treacherous.
Already, ports throughout the Americas and the Caribbean are rushing to get ready for the post-Panamax future. The port of Buenaventura in Colombia is just one of many that are being dredged deeper in preparation for the influx of megaships that will soon be flowing through the Panama Canal.
The Brazilian government invested $400 million to deepen and expand the port of Mariel in Cuba. Even though Cuba is currently under a U.S. trade embargo, shipping analysts believe this port may soon become a key hub for Asian cargo. China is helping Cuba’s commercial shipping fleet build ten 45,000-ton ocean vessels over the next several years.
While all of these developments sound well and good for world trade, the disconcerting part for America is that the United States is absent. It is a European consortium of companies that is expanding the Panama Canal. It is a Chinese company that is operating the ports on both ends of the Panama Canal. It is Chinese investment that is expanding the Cuban merchant fleet. On top of all this, the overall percentage of trade between the largest Latin American economies—Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil and Argentina—and the U.S. has decreased dramatically in the last 10 years.
According to Stratfor global affairs analyst Robert Kaplan, U.S. leadership has largely ignored Latin America, while leaders in Europe, China and other parts of the world have made big inroads. Such negligence may yet prove to be one of America’s greatest strategic blunders.
The Battle for the Caribbean
One of the lesser known battles of the Second World War was the Battle of the Caribbean. During this 1942 naval campaign, German U-boats and Italian submarines attacked coastal targets in the Antilles Islands and sank Allied ships in the Caribbean Sea. The strategy was to blockade the Panama Canal and cut off the flow of oil from Venezuela to the United States. If Hitler could wrestle control of these strategic sea gates away from Washington, a Nazified Europe hoped to besiege the U.S. into a forced armistice.
After months of fighting, Allied naval forces were able to drive the Axis powers from the Caribbean, but a strategic weakness was spotlighted. The U.S. economy could have been severely crippled if American ships had been denied passage through the Panama Canal Zone.
The U.S. government used to be acutely aware of this threat, and cultivated a strong military presence in the Caribbean Sea. During World War ii, the U.S. government stationed 65,000 troops in the Panama Canal Zone and cooperated closely with Cuban President Fulgencio Batista for the defense of the Caribbean. The entire area of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea was even referred to as the “American Mediterranean” during this period.
In the almost seven decades since World War ii, however, American influence in the Caribbean Sea has dramatically fallen. After the U.S. government relinquished control of the Panama Canal Zone in 1999, one of America’s most strategic assets was left wide open to foreign control. This situation was further exacerbated by the fact that Cuba broke its alliance with America after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 and by the fact that American-Venezuelan relations went sour after authoritarian strongman Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999.
Currently, the U.S. government is relying almost solely on the U.S. Fourth Fleet to protect Caribbean security. However, both European and Asian powers are quickly moving in to cultivate strong relationships with Cuba, Venezuela, Panama and other strategically located Latin American nations.
Colonies of the Holy Roman Empire
While successive U.S. presidential administrations have been ignoring Cuba for decades, Pope Benedict xvi and his Vatican hierarchy have been working behind the scenes to collaborate with Havana to combat the U.S.-led embargo and to support the Cuban government’s incremental economic reforms. This strategy is now paying off for the Vatican, as the Castro regime has recently come to recognize the Catholic Church as a legitimate interlocutor between the government and the Cuban people. Given this new recognition and the advanced age of both Castro brothers, Archbishop of Havana Jaime Ortega may soon emerge as a major power broker shaping the post-Castro destiny of the island.
Germany seems to recognize this fact and has set up a special seminar to cultivate German-Cuban relations via the Catholic Church. The last session of the seminar, held in November, was titled, “The Catholic Church as a Facilitator of Engagement and Social Life: Cuban and German Experiences.” It was at this meeting in Germany that Archbishop Ortega officially announced the Cuban Catholic Church’s new role as official recognized interlocutor of the Cuban people.
So, as America remains bogged down in the Middle East, Germany and the Vatican are working together to reshape the destiny of the most strategic island in the Caribbean—an island only 90 miles away from the U.S. mainland. This development holds the potential to completely recalibrate the balance of power in the region in the future!
In Venezuela, the impending death of cancer-stricken leader Hugo Chávez could soon kick off a Roman Catholic spring wherein national power shifts to opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski and the Venezuelan Bishops Conference. As with Cuba, the primary beneficiaries of such a Roman Catholic spring would be the Vatican State and its European allies!
Germany and the European Union are also dramatically increasing their involvement with the nation of Panama itself. During a visit to Europe last October, Panama President Ricardo Martinelli told German Chancellor Angela Merkel that his country would soon like to introduce the euro as legal tender alongside the U.S. dollar. Considering the new influx of trade that Panama is likely to receive as the result of an expanded Panama Canal, its proposed introduction of the euro as official currency is a massive vote of confidence in the German-dominated economic system.
When all these developments are considered together with recent inroads made by Germany and the Vatican, it becomes evident that Catholic-led European investors are the rising stars of the Caribbean region.
God promised Abraham, way back around 1800 b.c., that his descendants would “possess the gate of his enemies” (Genesis 22:17; 24:60). Herbert W. Armstrong’s classic book The United States and Britain in Prophecy shows how God fulfilled this promise by blessing the modern-day nations of America and Britain with almost every strategic sea gate on the planet—Panama included.
God further forewarned in Deuteronomy 28:52 that all these gates, along with world dominance, would be stripped away from end-time Israel if its people were disobedient to His laws.
America and Britain have already lost the Suez Canal and the Strait of Hormuz to radical Islamic powers. They have already lost Hong Kong and the Straits of Malacca to a resurgent China. Now they are on the cusp of losing the Straits of Gibraltar and the Panama Canal to a rising European superpower!
The loss of all these sea gates puts America in a very precarious position. If the looming American economic crisis starts to eat away at U.S. naval power, the governments in London and Washington will not be able to protect America’s economic interests in the event of trade war. Instead, European and Oriental nations would be able to utilize their close alliances with Latin American states to reshape a new world order.
This is exactly what Bible prophecy predicts! Please reference the March 2006 special edition of the Trumpet magazine for a more detailed analysis of how global resource wars will play out. ▪