U.S. military officials on Thursday defended a proposed agreement to
use seven Colombia bases, saying the deal would not change U.S.
missions in Colombia nor increase the allowed number of troops.
Negotiations to give the U.S. access to the bases for 10 years are
expected to be completed by the end of the month, senior U.S. military
official Frank Mora told The Associated Press.
President Hugo Chavez calls the plan a serious threat to the region,
and other South American nations from Brazil to Bolivia have also
“It does not envision any larger military
presence,” said Mora, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the
Western Hemisphere. “It formalizes what we’re already doing.”
officials say American troops will continue to be involved in helping
Colombia in counter-drug operations and in supporting its fight against
The U.S. has on average 250 troops in Colombia, a
number could increase to 400 because of construction work planned at
one of the bases, Mora said in a telephone interview.
But he said
the military has no intention of trying to increase the current limit
set by the U.S. Congress for personnel in Colombia: 800 American troops
and 600 civilian contractors.
“There will be no offensive
capacity from these bases whatsoever. There’s not going to be F-16s
flying in or tanks or anything of the sort,” Mora said.
Mora dismissed Chavez’s warnings as “typical anti-Yankee rhetoric.”
Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the U.S. needs to respond to regional concerns.
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,” he said. (AP)