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Region's Concerns with the New U.S.-Colombia Military Agreement Continue

    *  In an op-ed  published by Foreign Policy on December 8, Ambassador Bernardo Álvarez outlines the regional concerns over the new military agreement between Colombia and the U.S.
    * An updated context paper from the Venezuelan Embassy in the U.S. highlights new developments after the November 27 UNASUR meeting, such as the organization’s decision to request a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the bases.

Regional concerns remain strong after the October 30 signing of a controversial agreement allowing U.S. soldiers and intelligence personnel to use seven Colombian bases, stresses the Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Bernardo Álvarez, in an op ed published by Foreign Policy on December 8. Furthermore, an updated context paper from the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela points to recent developments in the region after the November 27 meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).

The op-ed, published by Foreign Policy magazine on December 8, emphasizes that the agreement has served to provoke further tensions between Colombia and the region. “This agreement’s vague provisions and questionable motivations threaten regional stability and territorial sovereignty, alter the region's military balance, and threaten to push more of the violence and drug trafficking that is endemic to Colombia’s conflict across its borders,” writes Ambassador Álvarez.

“The new U.S.-Colombia agreement doesn’t do anything to assuage regional concerns that more violations of sovereignty won't occur,” he adds. “While it does not contemplate operations in third countries, it does not explicitly prohibit them. Just as it would be for any country, this is an unacceptable threat.”

The context paper outlines the region’s opposition to the agreement since its initial announcement in July 2009. The agreement threatens to further militarize Colombia’s internal conflict, potentially leading to a further expansion of drug trafficking, crime and violence beyond Colombia’s borders. Additionally, public U.S. documents justifying elements of the agreement stated that U.S. presence in Colombian bases would allow “full spectrum operations” against threats posed by “anti-U.S. governments,” thus indicating much broader missions than “the fight against drugs” claimed by the U.S. and Colombian government.

As both the context paper and op-ed note, the countries of South America have remained united in their expression of concern over the agreement. Three summits of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) have taken place, the most recent on November 27. In this last meeting the South American nations also agreed to prohibit “the use or the threat of force, as well as any other type of military aggression or threats to the stability, sovereignty, an territorial integrity of other member states” and to request a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss the bases, despite the last minute decision of the Colombian government to not send its Foreign and Defense ministers.

Additionally, a number of regional leaders have spoken out against the agreement, including Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who issued a joint statement expressing their concerns over the deployment of foreign troops in the region on November 18.

Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the U.S. Press and Communications Office / December 10, 2009

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