Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Thursday rejected claims by an NGO that former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s signing of a military pact with the U.S. in 2009 was an act of treason, an abuse of power, and a breach of public duty.
“As president of the republic I express my vehement rejection of these unfounded and unfair accusations of those who … did nothing more than serve our country and the interests of the Colombian people,” Santos said.
‘Who could imagine that to sign an agreement to increase and make bilateral collaboration more effective against drug trafficking and terrorism would be considered treason? … As defense minister, I was the one that initiated the negotiations for this agreement. So, to the complainants, include me in the denunciation. I would be honored!” Santos continued.
“I completely respect President Uribe and his cabinet, who worked on this issue with absolute and total transparency, and with the patriotic spirit that has always characterized them. I only aspire to fight against the violent people and the criminals and to represent Colombia with the same integrity, the same firmness and the same determination as President Uribe did,” Santos said.
Santos was reacting to accusations made by La Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados Jose Alvear Restrepo, which claims that the controversial pact granting the U.S. access to at least seven Colombian military bases and civilian airports “compromises national sovereignty.”
The Colombian NGO made the allegations after the Colombian Constitutional Court ruled on Tuesday that the pact is unconstitutional until ratified by Congress.
Following the Constitutional Court’s ruling, the pact must be ratified by Colombian House of Representatives. By law, if the pact is ratified by the nation’s Congress, then it must also be ratified by U.S. Congress.
Former commander of the Colombian armed forces General Freddy Padilla said Wednesday that U.S. Congress would not ratify the pact “due to their foreign policy circumstances.”
U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Wednesday that Washington hopes Bogota “takes the necessary steps to preserve the bilateral military agreement,” and that in the meantime cooperation will continue under pre-existing agreements.
Santos said his government will study the agreement and “decide if it is worth continuing with the pact or not.”
According to Constitutional Court President Mauricio Gonzalez Cuervo, details such as “access points and the use of air bases, free movement within these installations, the freedom to carry arms” led the court to decide that the agreement was not simply an extension of previous treaties.
The controversial pact, which granted the U.S. access to at least seven Colombian military bases and civilian airports, was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Uribe in August 2009, but was never approved by the country’s Congress. According to Uribe, the pact was a continuation of existing policy and did not need congressional approval.
The agreement caused tensions in the region, as neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela consider U.S. military presence in Colombia a threat to their sovereignty.
The pact was also controversial within Colombia, with leftist opposition party Polo Democratico labeling the pact a violation of Colombian independence and sovereignty.