U.S.-Colombia Pact Causes Stir Among Neighbors
Aug 31--If there is, or should be, one rule of U.S. Latin America policy today, it is this: Don't give Hugo Chávez a freebie. Avoid handing the leftist Venezuelan President a reason to sound an alarm against yanqui aggression in the western hemisphere.
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havez's reputation in Washington may be that of an oil-rich populist demagogue whose default political strategy is gratuitous anti-Americanism. But his rants often strike a chord with his more moderate counterparts in Latin America, whose decibel levels are lower but whose anxieties about U.S. designs in their region are still high.
The Obama Administration dropped the latest gift into Chavez's lap this summer when, in a manner most Latin governments call less than transparent, it completed negotiations with Colombia to let the U.S. military use seven military bases there. On the surface, the deal simply moves U.S. counter-drug operations to Colombia from a base in Ecuador, whose leftist President Rafael Correa has refused to renew the U.S.'s lease. But to neighboring countries it appears to inflate U.S. military presence on the continent, especially since it also implies that U.S. troops will take up counterinsurgency work against Colombia's leftist guerrillas. Chavez predictably declared that the pact has "loosed the winds of war" on South America. But even centrist, U.S.-friendly Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said this week, "Our beloved South America is feeling very nervous."
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