Sunday, May 19, 2013
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According to a July 17, 2009 AP release ("US, Colombia Near Base Access Deal"), "The United States and Colombia are nearing agreement on expanding the U.S.'s military presence in this conflict-torn nation, potentially basing hundreds of Americans in a central valley to support Air Force drug interdiction missions." If reached, the deal would last for 10 years and, as the Drug War Chronicle reports ("Washington, Bogota on Verge of Deal to Make Colombian Military Air Base Regional Hub for Counter-Narcotics"), would assist officials in picking up "the drug war slack left by the ending of interdiction operations from the international airport at Manta, Ecuador" after Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa recently "refused to renew the US lease, saying that the US military mission there violated his country's sovereignty." According to Colombian officials, the Chronicle states, "the plan [is] to make Colombia a regional hub for Pentagon operations." As the AP report puts it, Washington's "obtaining increased access to Colombian facilities" would allow the base to serve as a "potential jumping-off point for operations by expeditionary forces."
While many officials remain optimistic about both the prospect of reaching an agreement and its end results, others have voiced concern. AP writes that "Rafael Pardo, a former defense minister and candidate for president in May 2010 elections, has complained of secrecy surrounding the negotiations." He also, despite reassurances from Colombian officials that "U.S. flights won't cross Colombia's borders without permission from affected countries," expressed apprehension "about alienating other South American nations." As he said, "If [the plan] is to launch surveillance flights over other nations then it seems to me that would be needless hostility by Colombia against its neighbors." Additionally, although "drug interdiction is the chief U.S. goal, some worry that bringing in more Americans will lead to the U.S. taking sides in a conflict involving Colombia's military, rebels and private militias over land and cocaine that has led to hundreds of extra-judicial killings of civilians over the years."
For more information on this development, check out the above linked Drug War Chronicle piece.