O'Grady bases her claim largely on the fact that the Obama administration has called for the reinstatement of ousted Honduran President Manual Zelaya, who was overthrown while purportedly trying to change the constitution to allow him to stay in office longer. Hmm, remind you of a leader a bit farther south, in, say, Colombia? But if a coup overthrew Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, who has also been trying to change the constitution to stay in office longer, O’Grady would be up in arms to restore him. Besides, Obama isn't actually too firm in his support of Zelaya.
Putting aside that double standard, however, it’s clear O’Grady hasn’t been keeping up to date with current events. If she had, she would have heard about negotiations underway between the U.S. and Colombia to establish at least 5 U.S. military bases in Colombia. Last I heard, folks on the left tend to oppose increased militarization; it's tough to see 5 new military bases as a move to the left.
Why is the administration pushing for these bases? The stated goal of the military facilities is "filling the gaps left by the eventual cutting of [military] aid in Plan Colombia," according to sources in Washington and Bogotá cited by an article published July 1 in the Colombian weekly news magazine Cambio.
The proposed bases, which are being described as replacements for a U.S. base in Manta, Ecuador, closing in September, would expand the U.S. military mission to include counter-narcotic operations, involvement in Colombia’s counterinsurgency war, and combating “other international crimes,” according to Colombia’s Foreign Minister.
Not only are the bases not a move to the left, but are a terrible idea for multiple reasons:
- International consensus continues to approach consensus on the failure of the “Drug War,” so expanding such the same old counter-narcotic operations is a waste of money and pretty awful for Colombian campesinos.
- In cooperating with the Colombian army, the U.S. would be demonstrating support for an institution with an atrocious human rights record. Merely proposing these bases unmasks as complete lip service Obama’s previous statements calling for an improvement of Colombian’s human rights record
- Lack of oversite: while Plan Colombia funding has been open for Congressional debate, funding for US military activities is not. Congress would therefore exercise little to no control over the funding – and therefore actions – of the bases in Colombia.
- U.S. forces will be able to get away with who-knows-what awful behavior. As described in the Cambio story, US negotiators "have made it known that even if they won't interfere in the exercise of command by Colombian officers on the bases, they will ensure the autonomy of U.S. military forces when operations go beyond Colombia's borders."
- Motives for the bases are suspicious. As my colleague John Lindsay Poland writes, “the locations of the bases under negotiation raise further questions. None of them are on the coast of the Pacific Ocean, where aircraft from the Manta base patrolled for drug traffic -- supposedly with great success, reflecting how traffic has increased in the Pacific. Three of the bases are clustered near each other on the Caribbean coast, not far from existing U.S. military sites in Aruba and Curacao -- and closer to Venezuela than to the Pacific Ocean. Why are U.S. negotiators apparently forgoing Pacific sites, if counternarcotics is still part of the U.S. military mission? What missions 'beyond Colombia's borders' are U.S. planners contemplating?”
- News of the negotiations has generated serious problems with Colombia's neighboring countries. Venezuela has frozen relations, and Ecuador has threatened "increased military tensions" over concerns about the increased U.S. presence in the region that the bases would bring.
- Many Colombians are opposed, in part because such an agreement would bypass Article 173 of the Colombian Constitution, which prohibits the presence of foreign troops except in transit, and then only after legislative approval. Shown here are photos from a protest against the bases Tuesday in downtown Bogota.
For more info and resources, click here.