The Washington Post

U.S.-Colombia Deal Prompts Questions

Aug 27--On a recent sweltering day, Colombian fighter jets took to the sky from this country's most important air base, while mechanics remounted the engine of a medical evacuation plane.

27 de agosto de 2009

Soon, American pilots and crews will also be living and working here, assigned to fly sophisticated surveillance aircraft in a battle alongside Colombian forces against Marxist guerrillas and drug traffickers, Colombian officials say.

U.S. and Colombian officials say a new agreement to deploy U.S. aircraft and service members to this base is little more than the formalization of a string of loose military accords that go as far back as 1952. But the deal, which would allow American forces access to as many as seven bases, has prompted concern among South American presidents and an outcry from neighboring Venezuela, where President Hugo Chávez warns of an impending U.S. invasion.

On Friday, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe is expected to defend the plan at a regional summit in Argentina, arguing that it assists in the battle against the drug trade and has no offensive purpose. But even in Colombia, which accuses Chávez of meddling in its internal affairs, lawmakers are questioning whether the plan is legal and whether it could escalate the country's 45-year-old conflict, among other issues.
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