Another indigenous massacre in Nariño Colombian Congress likely to vote reelection referendum tonight
Aug 282009

Greetings from my couch – I’ve been out sick the last two days. But this morning I took lots of ibuprofen and wrote this analysis of the Colombia base agreement dispute and the UNASUR meeting for the Huffington Post.

Also to update on the re-election referendum debate in Colombia’s Congress: the process of reviewing all 92 legislators’ recusal requests has proven to be too time-consuming, and the House adjourned Wednesday night, postponing further deliberations for as many as eight days. Some Colombian press has been speculating that the pro-reelection camp is still uncertain about whether they have the votes, and may need a few extra days to twist arms outside the spotlight.

12 Responses to “Still here, and piece on HuffPost”

  1. maremoto Says:

    It was the exact implementation of the Monroe Doctrine [2] and its «corollary» enunciated in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt: «Persistence in a bad behavior or an incapacity that may culminate in a general decline of the ties that are common in a civilized society may eventually make necessary, in the Americas and in other regions, the intervention of any civilized nations. In the Western hemisphere, the commitment of the United States to the Monroe Doctrine may force them, in flagrant cases when they face this kind of bad behavior or this kind of incapacity, to exercise, even in spite of their own reluctance to do it, a police international power» – something that legitimizes many kinds of interference.

    shabby…that’s the word that comes to mind…cheap…

  2. Camilo Wilson Says:

    I shall assume, Maremoto, that by “shabby” and “cheap” you refer to the recent Obama-Uribe base agreement. I would agree, and I can think of other descriptors—to use a term from linguistics—that would be at least as à propos. Let me respond to Mr. Isacson’s article in The Huffington Post and add some thoughts regarding this agreement. I shall begin with three comments reported in the press from the meeting in Bariloche on Friday August 28th. One of them is by Lula da Silva, another is by Chávez, and a third is by Correa. I provide translation.

    We read in El Nuevo Herald (Miami) of Aug. 29, 2009 (“Unasur antepone soberanía a presencia militar de EEUU en Colombia”):

    Da Silva interpeló a Uribe para cuestionarlo sobre le efectividad de las bases militares.

    Translation: Da Silva questioned Uribe on the effectiveness of the military bases

    “[Uribe] intenta señalar que estas bases ya existen desde 1952. Yo quiero, de manera muy cariñosa, decirle al compañero Uribe que si las bases están establecidas en Colombia desde el 52 y todavía no solucionaron el problema, me parece que debemos repensar qué otras cosas podemos hacer en conjunto para solucionar los problemas”.

    Translation: “[Uribe] tries to point out that these bases have existed since 1952. In a warm way, I should like to tell brother Uribe that if the bases have been in Colombia since 1952 and they still haven’t resolved the problem, it seems to me that we must rethink what else we can do together to resolve the problems.”

    Uribe aclaró más tarde que no habló de bases sino de acuerdos con Estados Unidos que se remontan a 1952.

    Translation: Uribe later clarified that he was not talking of bases but rather of agreements between the United States that go back to 1952.

    From, Aug. 28, 2009 (“Transparencia para pactos militares transnacionales acuerdan presidentes”):

    Al final el Jefe de Estado Venezolano, Hugo Chávez, dejó una constancia: “nuestra propuesta para que Unasur la comience a considerar: la paz en Colombia, hasta cuando la guerra”.

    Translation: Toward the close, the Venezuelan Head of State Hugo Chávez, said for the record: “our proposal for UNASUR to begin to consider: peace in Colombia, war for how much longer.”

    Inmediatamente el Primer Mandatario colombiano alzó la voz y dijo: “una reflexión final: la mejor contribución a la paz de Colombia es que los bandidos sientan que en ninguna parte tienen albergue. Mientras se puedan refugiar en alguna parte no les va a interesar la paz en Colombia”.

    Translation: The Colombian Head of State immediately raised his voice and said: “a final reflection: the best contribution to peace in Colombia is that the bandits feel that they have no quarter anywhere. So long as they can take refuge somewhere they will have no interest in peace in Colombia.”

    Acto seguido, como queriendo tener la última palabra Correa dijo: “yo creo que con el diálogo se puede lograr la paz en Colombia”.

    Translation: Immediately after, as if wanting the last Word, Correa said: “I believe that with dialogue peace can be reached in Colombia.”

    According to a recent article in The New York Times (Aug. 28, 2009: “Leaders Criticize Colombia Over U.S. Military Pact”): “In response to criticism that the accord represented the continuation of American imperialism in the region, Mr. Uribe said the American soldiers were needed to help resolve Colombia’s four-decade war against guerrillas who have financing from the lucrative cocaine trade.”

    From a recent article by Juan Forero in The Washington Post (Aug. 29, 2009: “South American Leaders Assail U.S. Access to Colombian Military Bases”): “Uribe told the presidents meeting in the Patagonian resort of Bariloche that the U.S. assistance was necessary to fight drug-trafficking and Marxist rebels…”

    One immediate conclusion from these brief quotes is that Uribe wants the U.S. presence so he can continue his fight with the insurgency. Uribe also cites a need for help in fighting drugs, but this is a strategy to snooker in those who might not want to fight insurgents as such, but would fight them as drug traffickers. Uribe’s primary goal is to defeat the insurgency, not to talk peace with them.

    Another conclusion is that important leaders in the region not only question why more progress has not been made with regard in the Colombian conflict, given the volume of military aid—from the United States—that Uribe has already received, but argue that perhaps another approach is needed (e.g., Da Silva). Chávez and Correa suggest that dialogue with the insurgents is needed. [It is of more than passing interest that the General Accountability Office (GAO, of the U.S. Congress), in a recent report, questioned the results of U.S. support to Plan Colombia.]

    From my vantage point here in the region, I would make the following points as regards the Obama-Uribe base agreement and current U.S. policy—if there is one:

    • On a broad level, the United States seems to be sacrificing its relations to the region as a whole, and its bilateral relations to individual countries there, to its bilateral relationship with Colombia. This is the sad reading of many people in the region.

    • On a somewhat lower conceptual level, and taking the position of an American concerned about his or her foreign policy in the region, the base agreement will effectively tie the United States to Colombian foreign policy over a decade. The United States will be identified in the region with that policy. This can be perilous. Uribe and his right-wing supporters seem to value their relationship with the United States above their relationships with countries in the region. The U.S. relationship favors their interests. Uribe, and Juan Manuel Santos, will likely play on this relationship to further support their domestic political aims. And should either of them be the next president, the threat to the United States could be immediate. In a worst-case scenario (unlikely but possible) of armed clashes between Colombia and a neighbor, the United States would be drawn in.

    • Obama’s policy aligns with Uribe’s belief that Colombia’s half-century-old conflict has a military solution (evidence strongly controverts this). This undermines any chance of dialogue with the insurgents that might, in time, lead to a lasting peace.

    • By implication, the base agreement suggests a U.S. indifference to serious human-rights abuses committed by Colombia’s armed forces. Through the agreement, the U.S. readily aligns itself with those forces. This makes a mockery of U.S. human-rights concerns.

    • The U.S. military presence in Latin America has historically been a sensitive issue in the region. The U.S. role in undermining governments and supporting the status quo is well remembered. This history leaves little margin for local trust in the United States. Yet something bordering trust emerged when Obama was elected. There was a feeling, a great hope, that maybe—just maybe—the United States had at long last come of age and would allow the countries to resolve their own problems. The dismal Bush legacy in the world sharpened that hope. The Colombia-U.S. base agreement and other U.S. actions, however, including the soft U.S. position vis-à-vis the recent coup in Honduras, are quickly dashing those hopes, to the detriment of U.S. interests in region.

    • The Obama administration may think that Colombia’s insurgency, and its alleged relationship with Chávez, pose a major threat to U.S. national security. I do not believe this to be so. But if the Gringos do, I would argue that using their military to address the matter is not advisable. There are other options, and less dangerous ones. But to define and implement them would require creativity, courage, and political will of a kind that Obama seems to lack.

  3. lfm Says:

    Well spoke Camilo Wilson. Just for my education, can somebody explain one thing here? It’s pretty clear by now that most of the region smells a rat in this bases’ deal. And rightly so. It’s also clear that if Uribe wants his bases, it’ll be very hard to stop him, at least from the point of view of any other Latin American country. From the PR point of view, since Uribe insists in claiming that these bases are essential in the struggle against drug smuggling (after hearing Rodrigo Lara a few days ago I can’t help chuckling at Uribe’s interest in fighting drugs, but that’s another story), it is hard for Lula et al. to be seen as sabotaging the counternarcotics effort. So, why not shoot across Uribe’s bow? In principle, Lula could propose the creation of a multi-national counternarcotics base in Colombia. Sure, the US has state-of-the-art intelligence equipment. But Brazil, as far as I know, has an air force worth its name and could put more planes if needed. I guess Mexico wouldn’t mind having a place to train personnel in drug interdiction, Peru might be aching to join if only to show the US what a good boy it is, and so on. The point is, in a multi-national base every country could pitch in giving the whole thing some sense of balance and neutrality.

    Of course I know this wouldn’t work. Uribe would never accept it because a multi-national base will not help him in his real goal which is to fight the FARC (and spread the war to the neighbors if and when needed). But I think it would be good to see him rejecting the offer, making him go on record saying that he does not want the help from other countries in the region and that only the creation of U.S.S. Colombia will do for him.

    So, my question is, would such an offer from the region, led by Lula, have an air of plausibility enough to embarrass Uribe? Embarrassing Uribe is a modest goal if you, like me, would rather have the guy defeated, impeached, tried, shamed and imprisoned for all sorts of crimes. But you’ve gotta start somewhere.

  4. lfm Says:

    Oops, spoke too soon. I just read something about the conclusions of the Bariloche summit and apparently it considers the creation of some regional initiative against drugs which is pretty much what I had in mind. It means that they aren’t that dumb. Still, it’s being a slow Sunday and I needed to vent against Uribe. You know what? I feel better already.

  5. Camilo Wilson Says:

    A very creative proposal, Ifm, very creative. However, as you say, Uribe would reject it.

    Let’s see if UNASUR’s member states can come up with something. But even If they do, it would likely not be before the signing of the base agreement. Uribe wants this to move fast.

  6. Marcos Says:

    “Uribe’s primary goal is to defeat the insurgency, not to talk peace with them. ”

    You mean spreading our legs and then getting kicked in the balls by a smiling “Rául Reyes” and a laughing “Mono Jojoy” is talking peace? That’s news to me.

    Truly, it is a horrible thing to defeat insurgencies and must be avoided at all costs.

    I have imagine that is alright with you as long as the term “peace” is being thrown around.

    “Of course I know this wouldn’t work. Uribe would never accept it because a multi-national base will not help him in his real goal which is to fight the FARC”

    This is also the common desire of millions people who are not Uribe. paramilitaries or drug traffickers. Apparenly I missed the memo stating otherwise.

    And that’s such a bad goal because…? Nobody should help Colombia fight FARC because…? Guerrillas should be allowed to establish themselves in Ecuador and Venezuela because…? Oh, I forgot…it’s all about peace, again.



  7. lfm Says:

    Would be nice if people could advance discussions instead of dragging them back to where they’ve been for years on end. My post was wondering, with sincere interest, if a multi-national counter-narcotics base would be a feasible proposal, knowing full well that Uribe would not be up for it. But I guess that some people just prefer to keep spouting the same stuff as usual.

  8. Chris Says:

    Multi-national bases are a joke… they accomplish nothing. Case in point, every multi-national base that has ever existed. They all just pretend to be working towards a common goal when in fact they’re all stabing each other in the backs.

    Actually, a multi-national base in this case would be much easier to infiltrate by the FARC considering a significant number of its inhabitants come from countries that share similar ideologies. It happens to the Colombian military on a regular basis… and that’s without multi-nationals who have no reason to care about what ultimately happens to Colombia.

  9. Global Voices Online » Colombia: The Extraordinary UNASUR Meeting in Bariloche Says:

    [...] was held in Bariloche, Argentina, primarily to discuss the use of 7 Colombian military bases by United States military personnel. The issue had prompted criticism from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and raised concerns in the [...]

  10. Global Voices Online » Colombia: The Extraordinary UNASUR Meeting in Bariloche Says:

    [...] was held in Bariloche, Argentina, primarily to discuss the use of 7 Colombian military bases by United States military personnel. The issue had prompted criticism from Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and raised concerns in the [...]

  11. maremoto Says:

    Los guerrilleros encargados de los atentados

    ‘Camila’ (Capturada 30 mayo): Le incautan computador, debía responder por atentados contra José Obdulio Gaviria y Fernando Londoño. Tenía la misión de bloquear las entradas a Bogotá con atentados en vía a Villavicencio, la Calle 80 y autopista norte. Jefe del P-C3 en Bogotá.

    Camilla has been unmasked and captured!! Let’s hope she doesn’t have Internet access in jail and can’t post here anymore!

    By the way, pretty good analysis on the bases but I was referring to the history of criminal actions by the US in the region. For example, right before the Civil War in this country you can find headlines from the Richmond Times (the “capital” of the hate filled heart of Dixie then) proclaiming the expansion of “Manifest Destiny” southwards with headlines proclaiming the creation of a cotton picking empire of slaves (to join their black slaves) from Mexico to Chile. This and over one hundred invasions of Latin America, crimes against the peace, along with the CIA’s black market, or the “War on Drugs” , the single most destructive force wreaking havoc upon the fabric of our societies, makes this a rogue nation needing to be tried and punished of crimes against humanity.

    That’s what I was talking about.

  12. Global Voices em Português » Colômbia: Encontro dos líderes da UNASUL em Bariloche Says:

    [...] em Bariloche, Argentina, primariamente para discutir o uso de 7 bases militares colombianas pelos militares dos Estados Unidos. Tal questão sofreu críticas da Venezuela, Equador, e Bolívia e trouxe preocupação aos outros [...]

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