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WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Navy said Thursday it has re-established the US Fourth Fleet to direct an increasing American naval presence in the Caribbean and Latin America.
The move comes as popularly elected leftist regimes, including that of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, pose a growing challenge to US influence in Latin America.
Beginning July 1, the fleet will have operational responsibility over navy ships assigned to the region from the US Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, the navy said.
Admiral Gary Roughead, the chief of naval operations, said the decision to establish a separate fleet for the region "recognizes the immense importance of maritime security in the southern part of the Western Hemisphere."