“This base would feed a failed drug policy, support an abusive army, and reinforce a tragic history of U.S. military intervention in the region,” said John Lindsay-Poland, FOR's Latin America program co-director. “It’s wrong and wasteful, and Congress should scrap it.”
The new facility in Palanquero, Colombia would not be limited to counter-narcotics operations, nor even to operations in the Andean region, according to an Airlift Military Command (AMC) planning document
With help from the Transportation Command and AMC, the Southern Command identified Palanquero, from which “nearly half of the continent can be covered by a C-17 without refueling.” If fuel is available at its destination, “a C-17 could cover the entire continent, with the exception of the Cape Horn region,” the AMC planners wrote.
President Obama’s Pentagon budget
The Southern Command is also pursuing access to a site in French Guiana that would permit military aircraft to reach sites in Africa
The lease for the U.S. “Forward Operating Location” in Manta, Ecuador expires in November 2009, and Ecuador notified Washington last year that it would not renew the lease. The facility in Manta was authorized to conduct only counter-drug operations, but drug traffic in the Pacific, where aircraft from Manta patrolled, has increased in recent years
The “mission creep” in the proposal for continent-wide operations from Colombia is also evident in President Obama’s foreign aid request
Colombian and U.S. human rights and political leaders have objected to continued funding
Colombian Defense Ministry sources said
U.S. law caps the number of uniformed U.S. soldiers operating in Colombia at 800, and the number of contractors at 600. Until last year, a significant number of them were intelligence personnel assigned to the effort to rescue three U.S. military contractors kidnapped by the leftist FARC guerrillas. With the rescue last year of the three contractors, many U.S. intelligence staff left Colombia, leaving space for soldiers to run operations in the prospective new U.S. base or bases.
“That the Colombian government asks for a U.S. base now would be a serious error,” says former defense minister and presidential candidate Rafael Pardo
FOR believes replacing one military base that was set up for the failed drug war with another base to intervene in South America and to support the abusive Colombian army would be a serious error for the United States as well.