U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Colombia Tuesday night, after meeting with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa in Quito. On Wednesday she will meet with President Alvaro Uribe and the Andean nation’s presidential candidates Juan Manuel Santos and Antanas Mockus.
Clinton was met on her arrival in Bogota by U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield and Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez. Following meetings with prominent Colombians, the secretary of state is scheduled to give a press conference at 3 PM local time.
Prior to her visit to Colombia Clinton met with Correa and the two discussed Colombia’s signing of the agreement that grants the U.S. access to seven military bases around the Andean nation.
Clinton defended the pact and said that “the U.S. has proudly helped Colombia” in the fight against drug trafficking and guerrilla organizations, “but we respect the territorial integrity of all the countries in the region.”
Correa said that during the meeting Clinton had “reiterated that these bases are Colombian, and that the limits on North American soldiers are perfectly defined.”
“We have no reason to hide it, this is a worrying issue for Ecuador and I would say for the majority of the countries in UNASUR,” Correa said at a joint press conference with Clinton.
“There are reasons to be suspicious. We have discussed it and we have decided that the best way to deal with the situation together is speaking about it openly, to continue with a dialogue,” Correa said.
Clinton said that her government “had provided and will continue to provide information regarding the use of the bases, which are not American but Colombian.” The secretary of state left open the possibility that the White House would negotiate similar military agreements with other nations in the region.
“We will seek more opportunities to work with other friends in the region because we want to be sure that threats from drug trafficking groups and the presence of the FARC do not threaten anybody, not just Colombia,” Clinton said.
Correa had previously expressed concern over the military pact, stating that “the whole region is concerned about the seven North American bases in Colombia. We wouldn’t want the region to become the new Middle East.”