Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Crossing the line: Joe DeRaymond and the SOA

I neglected to post a tribute when one of FOR's first volunteers in Colombia, Joe DeRaymond, died in September. I had met Joe several times in his capacity as a member of the program's Colombia Committee when I worked in the San Francisco, CA office before coming to Colombia. I then had the privilege, just the month before he died, of leading the delegation in August in which Joe made his last visit to the Peace Community. Despite the pain and difficulty of the advanced stage of his brain cancer, his joy at visiting the Community one last time was palpable. I am honored to have shared that with Joe, who was not only a former FOR accompanier but also an assiduous advocate for human rights and the end to impunity in Latin America. As people gather in Fort Benning, Georgia for the annual SOA protest/vigil, I post this email appeal, sent today, for support for the Joe DeRaymond Memorial Accompaniment Fund, in memory of an inspiring man and tireless activist. ~Moira

In 2006, Joe DeRaymond served a three-month sentence for "crossing the line" at Fort Benning, Georgia, where the School of the Americas (SOA, now called WHINSEC) is located. Joe spoke about going again this year to the annual SOA vigil, which occurs this weekend. Though his passing last month obviously changed that plan, his ashes will be spread at the vigil in accordance with his wish. He actively participated in the movement to close the school, through lobbying, educating his community, and protests.

We are gratified by the generosity of those of you who have contributed to
Joe DeRaymond Memorial Accompaniment Fund, which has now received more than $3,200 - including from the owner of a local landfill that Joe organized to clean up!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bases deal signed, but what are the real intentions?

November 16 update: Another version has been published on Alternet.org under the title “Obama Signs Military Basing Deal with Colombia -- Could Set Stage for Expeditionary Warfare.”
November 11 update: A version of this piece has been published on CommonDreams.org under the title "Signing of Colombia Bases Deal Could Set the Stage for 'Expeditionary Warfare'".

After several months of secrecy and controversy, on October 28th the US and Colombia signed an agreement to allow the US military extensive access to seven Colombian bases, notwithstanding serious concerns about true intentions and eventual consequences.

Despite pledges by Colombian and U.S. governments about the limitations of the agreement, the agreement text and U.S. military documents contradict such assurances. One of the principal concerns raised by regional governments after news was leaked of the pending agreement has been the possibility of the bases’ use for aggressions against neighboring countries. In an interview Sunday with the Colombian daily El Tiempo, Ambassador Brownfield claimed that joint operations aren’t planned outside of Colombia, and that Article IV of the agreement expressly forbids such operations. In fact, a careful review of the text of the agreement reveals no such prohibition.

Not only that, but similar assurances by Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva that the agreement "has no geopolitical or strategic connotation, other than being more effective in the fight against drug trafficking" are even more hard to believe after reading a recently-uncovered Pentagon budget document that expresses clear regional intentions for the Palanquero base. The document describes the U.S. presence in Palanquero as an “opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America,” and confirms the fears of Colombia’s neighbors when it discusses the possibility of using the base to confront the "threat" of what it calls "anti-US governments." The most chilling phrase, however, is the discussion of the potential use of Palanquero to “expand expeditionary warfare capability.”