The Examiner

Chavez unhappy with increased U.S. military presence in Colombia

Jul 21--Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has quarreled many times with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe over the last several years, and Chavez has always had a deep distrust and dislike of U.S. policies towards Latin America. So it should come as no surprise that Chavez is voicing his opinion about the latest arrangement between Colombia and the U.S. to allow the U.S. military access to at least three Colombian bases.

21 de julio de 2009

The agreement was borne out of the U.S. military’s search for a place to relocate the counterdrug mission that has been operating out of Ecuador’s Manta air base since 1999. Shortly after Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa was elected in 2006, he claimed the U.S. presence in Manta was a violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty, and that the ten-year lease would be allowed to expire in November 2009. The U.S. military then began the search for a new home for the base’s personnel and assets, exploring locations like Curacao and Honduras. However, Colombia and the U.S. have strong political and economic ties, as well as a history of military cooperation in the counterdrug and counterterrorism arenas.

That doesn’t mean everyone is happy about the deal. According to the Colombian government, the agreement isn’t new, but just an updated version of an existing agreement. The Colombian government is also apparently trying to limit funding cuts to Plan Colombia, which has funneled millions of U.S. dollars to the war against leftist guerrillas and drug traffickers. However, the Colombian government opposition claims—like Correa—that the U.S. military presence on Colombian bases could undermine national sovereignty. The Colombian constitution requires prior consultation with the Council of State and prior approval by the Senate before foreign troops can be allowed into the national territory, and one senator complained that the government had "bypassed the Senate" in making its decision. However, it sounds like these details will get hammered out, and U.S. authorities made it very clear that all missions will be approved by the Colombian government, and Colombian generals are still in charge of all their bases.
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