Venezuela on Thursday warned that the United States is aiming for a bigger military role in South America through an agreement with Colombia for expanded use of its bases.
Tensions have been growing between Venezuela and Colombia over the newly signed deal granting the U.S. military greater access to Colombian bases, including US$46 million for construction at the Palanquero air base — much of it to modernize the runway.
President Hugo Chavez has warned Venezuelan troops to be ready in case the U.S. seeks to provoke an armed conflict.
Information Minister Blanca Eekhout said Thursday that Venezuela believes a bigger U.S. military presence in Colombia would threaten peace in the region.
“Between Colombia and Venezuela, there is no conflict because … Colombian people are the same people,” Eekhout told reporters. “Our conflict is with the military bases.”
“The situation with Colombia doesn’t need negotiation,” she said. “The one that needs to be negotiated with is the United States.”
Colombia has sought to assuage Venezuela’s concerns, saying U.S. troops would be operating solely on Colombian soil to help combat drug trafficking and leftist guerrillas.
Eekhout pointed to a U.S. Air Force document submitted to Congress, calling it evidence of other motives. The budget document says development of the Palanquero base would allow “full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”
Flipping through the document, Eekhout told reporters: “It’s really about control.”
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Robin Holzhauer denied that.
“The treaty we signed with Colombia is to increase security and combat narco-terrorism,” Holzhauer said. “It’s strictly between Colombia and the United States. … The United States has no aggressive intent toward Venezuela at all.” (AP)