Over one hundred religious, national, community organizations and leaders and academics today called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “suspend negotiations for expanded U.S. military access or operations in Colombia,” a plan that has generated a swell of protest among Latin American countries, including Colombia, the largest recipient of U.S. military aid in the hemisphere.
“It is rational for regional leaders to see the installation of several U.S. military sites in Colombia as a potential threat to their security,” the groups said, because of U.S. support for trans-border attacks from Colombia, reported violations of the expiring base agreement with Ecuador, a Pentagon statement that it seeks access for “contingency operations” in the region, and the painful history of U.S. military intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“To broaden relationships with South America and value respect for human rights, the United States should not create a fortress in Colombia in concert with the region’s worst rights violators, the Colombian military,” the letter said.
Signatories included 20 national religious organizations and leaders and 32 U.S. peace and human rights groups, as well as community organizations, academics, and international NGOs.
The leaders wrote to Clinton as many South American presidents have expressed opposition to the increased U.S. military presence in Colombia. Brazilian President Lula da Silva urged President Obama to joined presidents from the South American Union to discuss the issue later this month in Buenos Aires, and Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said that “the winds of war are blowing” because of the plan for U.S. troops to operate in seven Colombian bases.
- John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of Reconciliation, 510-282-8983. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Nnenna Ozobia, Transafrica Forum, 202-553-7186. email@example.com
- Cristina Espinel, Colombia Human Rights Committee, 202-997-1358. firstname.lastname@example.org
- Robert Naiman, Just Foreign Policy, cell: 217-979-2857. email@example.com
- Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK, cell: 415-235-6517. firstname.lastname@example.org
For background documents on the military base negotiations between the United States and Colombia, see www.forcolombia.org/bases