Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

WEB NEWS

'Ice Bucket Challenge' angers anti-abortion activists

Read more

#TECH 24

Tomorrow's Transport Today

Read more

FOCUS

Mothers and children leaving Honduras at all costs

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

US journalist Peter Theo Curtis freed in Syria

Read more

ENCORE!

An art wonderland: A burnt-out piano, a bed in a box and a giant magic mushroom

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Historian Jean Garrigues: 'For the first time, Hollande knows what he is doing'

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

'Macron-economy' pun already worn out

Read more

DEBATE

What Next for Gaza? Lasting Ceasefire Agreed After 50 Days of War

Read more

DEBATE

What Next for Gaza? Lasting Ceasefire Agreed After 50 Days of War (part 2)

Read more

  • UN says 43 peacekeepers captured in Golan Heights

    Read more

  • In pictures: Billions of locusts invade Madagascan capital

    Read more

  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie say ‘I do’ in France

    Read more

  • Russian troops have entered Ukraine, says Kiev

    Read more

  • Assad cannot be partner in fight against terrorism, says Hollande

    Read more

  • New Ebola case in Nigeria brings death toll to 1,552

    Read more

  • Video: 'Neither Baghdad nor the US can defeat the Islamic State'

    Read more

  • Platini will not run against Blatter for FIFA presidency

    Read more

  • Air France pilots announce week-long strike in September

    Read more

  • Erdogan's inauguration paves way for constitutional change

    Read more

  • New French economy minister takes swipe at 35-hour work week

    Read more

  • Air France suspends flights to Ebola-stricken Sierra Leone

    Read more

  • Uzi shooting by 9-year-old rekindles gun debate

    Read more

  • Mother of American journalist asks IS leader for his release

    Read more

  • UN probe accuses Syrian regime, Islamists of ‘crimes against humanity’

    Read more

  • Uruguayans sign up to grow marijuana at home

    Read more

  • Missouri governor appoints black public safety director

    Read more

  • French unemployment rises 0.8% in July to record high

    Read more

  • Video: Iraq’s Yazidis flee to spiritual capital of Lalish

    Read more

Americas

Washington defends agreement to use army bases

Text by Lorena GALLIOT

Latest update : 2009-08-20

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has defended a controversial military agreement with Colombia, insisting that the US is not 'creating' army bases, but will be using existing bases in the South American country to fight drug trafficking.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has defended a new US-Colombian anti drug-trafficking deal in an attempt to quell South American fears that the agreement will lead to enhanced US military hegemony on the continent.

“I want to be clear about what this agreement does and does not,” Clinton said at a press conference with Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez. “First: the agreement does not create US military bases in Colombia. [But] It does provide US access to Colombian bases,” she explained.

The US Secretary of State urged sceptics to look at the agreement closely before they criticised it. “I certainly hope that anyone who is speaking out about the agreement will take the time to understand that this is built on years of agreements between the United States and Colombia. It does not pertain to other countries. This is about the bilateral cooperation between the United States and Colombia,” she said.

Clinton insisted that the agreement, reached on August 14 and expected to be ratified in a few weeks, would lead to “no significant permanent increase in US military presence in Colombia”. Under the current rules, US personnel levels in Colombia are limited by a Congressional cap to 800 military personnel and 600 civilian contractors.

The US secretary of state said the agreement would allow the two countries “to continue working together to meet the challenges posed by narco-traffickers, terrorists, and other illegal armed groups in Colombia."

Critics have raised doubts as to whether the new agreement will be more effective than the previous ones in dealing with these challenges. “The US-Colombian deal is far from perfect and has drawn serious criticism from circles other than the extreme left,” says Renée Fregosi, a political scientist at the Paris-based High Institute for Latin American Studies (IHEAL). “I myself believe that enhancing military repression has so far proven inefficient in the fight against drugs”, she added.

The deal is expected to give the US access to three Colombian airfields, two navy bases and two army bases. Colombia defended the agreement saying it would be in line with "the principle of non-intervention, and the principle of the territorial integrity of states."

The spectre of US imperialism

According to Fregosi, Clinton feels compelled to issue these reassurances because South America’s leftist governments, led by firebrand Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, categorically reject any form of US influence in the region. Colombia’s immediate neighbours, Ecuador and Venezuela, perceive US military presence in Colombia as a direct threat to their security, claiming Americans merely use anti-drug efforts as a cover for their military ambitions.

In a direct response to Clinton’s statement, Chavez bluntly accused Clinton and her Colombian counterpart of lying. “Nobody will believe what the secretary of state is saying – she doesn’t believe it herself!” he said.

Speaking on Venezuelan state television, Chavez warned against imperialist deceit: “What she said – and the Colombian chancellor repeated, looking a bit nervous and gloomy there – is not credible. Unless, that is, they know nothing about US imperialism. Then they should read about it, learn about what imperialist strategy is.”

The Bogota-Washington agreement has also raised concerns among more moderate Latin American leaders.

“Of course South Americans are right to be wary of US attempts to wield influence in the region and speak up about their sovereignty, but Chavez is just being provocative as usual, which mainly serves his internal interests,” Fregosi told FRANCE 24.
 
Chavez had previously warned that agreement could lead to war in South America and beefed up his defences by ordering tanks and military equipment from Russia. “Venezuela is number one on the list [of U.S targets]. Using Colombia and the bases in Aruba and Curacao, they are surrounding us”, he said over the weekend. “We do no want war, we hate it. But we must prepare for it,” the Venezuelan leader warned.

Date created : 2009-08-19

COMMENT(S)