Photo: Eraldo Peres/AP


Leaders to tackle US-Colombia deal

Nestled in the foothills of the Andes, the picturesque Argentine ski resort of Bariloche has plenty to offer visitors.--BBC NEWS.

27 de agosto de 2009

But the 12 Latin American leaders gathering there for a summit later on Friday will have little time to sample the cool delights of Bariloche in the southern hemisphere winter.

The meeting has been called to discuss a planned accord between Colombia and the US that would allow the American military use of seven Colombian military bases - a deal that has already provoked some heated rhetoric, from, above all, Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez.

For more than a decade, a limited number of US military personnel have been working alongside the Colombian security forces in their fight against drug-traffickers and left-wing rebels, as part of an accord known as Plan Colombia.

The agreement, which has also provided Colombia with millions of dollars in funding and military hardware, has helped to reduce violence and kidnapping and murder rates, according to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. It has also brought relative safety to Colombia's urban areas.
The latest deal to deploy US aircraft and personnel to Colombian bases comes as Ecuador ends a 10-year agreement allowing the Americans to use its Manta airbase as a regional hub for anti-drug surveillance operations.

For Bogota and Washington, the accord is merely a continuation of their current co-operation.

But it has provoked savage criticism, not only from Mr Chavez, but also Ecuador's President Rafael Correa and President Evo Morales of Bolivia.

Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Uruguay have been more measured but have also expressed their concern about the agreement's impact on the security of the region.

This unease forced Mr Uribe to undertake a week-long regional tour earlier this month to explain the details.
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