Colombia said Friday it had struck a deal with the United States allowing
Washington to use its military bases in a move that has drawn angry
fire from governments across Latin America.
“This agreement reaffirms the commitment of both parties in the
fight against drug trafficking and terrorism,” Colombia’s foreign
ministry said in a statement.
Officials here said the two
countries agreed the text of an agreement, which now has to be reviewed
by government agencies in Bogota and Washington before getting a final
The controversial deal would permit the US military to
operate surveillance aircraft from seven bases to track drug-running
boats in the Pacific Ocean.
A top US general said Thursday that
the United States needed to reassure regional powers about the deal,
after reports of negotiations rankled several leaders and even prompted
neighboring Venezuela to claim the “winds of war” were blowing.
think we need to do a better job of explaining to them what we’re doing
and making it as transparent as possible, because anybody’s concerns
are valid,” General James Cartwright, vice chairman of the US Joint
Chiefs of Staff, told a news conference this week.
Washington sought out its ally Colombia to make up for the loss of its hub for counternarcotics operations in Manta, Ecuador.
President Rafael Correa had refused to renew an agreement that allowed
the US military to fly out of Manta for the past ten years.
deal is worth over 40 million dollars for Bogota, along with expanded
US military assistance for Bogota’s counternarcotics efforts, according
to a US defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
and Defense Secretary Robert Gates also said this week the deal was not
a unilateral move but the product of a partnership with Colombia
designed to target drug cartels.
“The strategic intent is, in
fact, to be able to provide to the Colombians what they need in order
to continue to prosecute their efforts against the internal threats
that they have,” Cartwright said.
Colombia raised concern
throughout the region, which has a troubled history of US military
interventions, after announcing July 15 that it was negotiating the
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez led the charge, alongside his Ecuadoran counterpart and ally Rafael Correa.
in Quito at a regional summit last weekend, Chavez said he was
fulfilling his “moral duty” by telling fellow leaders that the “winds
of war were beginning to blow.”
“This could generate a war in South America,” he said.
Frank Mora, a US Defense Department official for Latin America, insisted however that the controversy was a tempest in a teapot.
“This agreement simply formalizes what already almost exists right now,” he told AFP. (AFP)