The New York Times

US-Colombia Deal Worries South American Leaders

Aug 28--Secrecy surrounding a military agreement between the U.S. and Colombia has critics warning of a new Yankee menace to the continent. Leaders at Friday's South American summit want assurances they won't be targeted.

28 de agosto de 2009

U.S. and Colombian diplomats have spent weeks trying to calm fears since The Associated Press reported details of the agreement to give the U.S. military a 10-year lease on space at seven Colombian bases to help fight drug traffickers and leftist rebels.

The deal is done -- just awaiting signatures, according to Colombia's foreign minister -- and Uribe has no intentions of backing down at the UNASUR summit of South American presidents.

The U.S. military has already operated in Colombia for years as part of Plan Colombia, $6 billion in U.S. aid that helped President Alvaro Uribe bring security to the violent nation.

But many regional leaders are worried the U.S. has other goals in mind.

A U.S. military document described one of the Colombian bases, Palanquero, as a potential jumping off point for U.S. forces, noting that ''nearly half the continent can be covered by a C-17 (military transport) without refueling.''

U.S. officials have publicly stressed since then that the U.S. military will remain inside Colombia and only cross borders when invited by other countries.
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