Friday, July 17, 2009

A Renewed Monroe Doctrine? Pentagon proposes 5 U.S. bases in Colombia

A Renewed Monroe Doctrine? Pentagon proposes 5 U.S. bases in Colombia

July 16, 2009: Oakland, CA: In a stunning development, the United States is negotiating for the use of five military facilities in Colombia in an agreement whose objectives include “filling the gaps left by the eventual cutting of [military] aid in Plan Colombia,” according to sources in Washington and Bogotá cited by an explosive article published <> in this week’s Cambio magazine.

The five bases, which replace a U.S. base in Manta, Ecuador, closing in September, would expand the U.S. military mission to include counter-narcotic operations, involvement in Colombia’s counterinsurgency war, and combating “other international crimes,” according to Colombia’s Foreign Minister.

“With broad consensus on the abject failure of a militarized and punitive drug policy, the Obama Administration should be re-thinking its approach, not signing a ten-year basing agreement with a military that has consistently violated human rights,” said John Lindsay-Poland, co-director of FOR’s Latin America program.

The U.N. Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions recently found that as many as 1,700 Colombian civilians have been killed by the army in what he characterized as “cold-blooded, premeditated murder.”

“These bases will be a military presence in search of a mission, increasing tension between Colombia and its neighbors, and making negotiations to end Colombia’s long war more difficult,” Lindsay-Poland said.

Many Colombians have expressed alarm that the Uribe administration has apparently committed to the U.S. bases with no public or legislative review. And if such an agreement is reached, it could constitute an “end run” around the struggles waged for years by human rights, religious, peace, indigenous, Afro-Colombian, women’s and youth groups to bring about a more peaceful U.S. policy in Colombia and the region. “At a time when President Obama is trying to strengthen diplomatic relations with Venezuela and other South American countries, this is a needless long-term provocation,” said Lindsay-Poland.

Annual funding requests for Plan Colombia, especially in the “Foreign Operations” bill, have been a space for debate about aiding the Colombian military and are subject to conditions and reports on human rights. But funding for U.S. military activities in Colombia faces no such discussion. Congress exercises almost no direct oversight on the activities of U.S. military bases around the world – with the exception of a couple high-profile sites like the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

In the midst of an unpopular drug war and the second term of a president enamored with special operations, the establishment in Colombia of five U.S. military facilities for at least ten years, whose missions include counterinsurgency and cross-border operations, would be the worst U.S. policy decision in the Andes since Plan Colombia began a decade ago.

Forty-six million dollars for construction on the central U.S. base in Palanquero, Colombia, is part of the military budget passed by the House of Representatives, but it still awaits Senate approval. “We ask activists to urge their Senators to drop these funds from the military budget,” said Lindsay-Poland.