Southern Command

Ariana Cubillos / AP

Last week representatives of Venezuela's socialist regime and its political opposition met for talks in Oslo, Norway. Norway had offered earlier this year to mediate between the two sides – but news of the meetings was a surprise, because less than a month ago opposition leader Juan Guaidó called (unsuccessfully) for an outright military overthrow of authoritarian President Nicolás Maduro.

Jose Iglesias / Miami Herald

In remarks made in Doral on Monday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and a retiring commander of U.S. military operations in the Caribbean and much of Latin America offered starkly different readings of the state of security in the Western Hemisphere.

The comments came during a change of command ceremony for the U.S. Southern Command, or SOUTHCOM, the branch of the Pentagon that oversees operations in the Caribbean as well as Central and South America.