U.S. use of Colombian bases: more questions than answers A word on Honduras
Jul 202009

  • A video released by AP over the weekend shows top-ranking FARC leader Jorge Briceño, alias “Mono Jojoy,” in a speech last year reading a final statement from Manuel Marulanda, the guerrillas’ deceased maximum leader. The statement makes a reference to “aid in dollars to [Ecuadorian President Rafael] Correa’s campaign and subsequent conversations with his emissaries, including some agreements.” (See the 6:23 minute mark in the video embedded here and point (i) in the transcript reproduced by El Tiempo. The statement about payments, which Correa denies ever occurred, have caused a political firestorm in Ecuador just three weeks after the president was re-inaugurated following a strong victory in April elections within a new constitutional framework. The revelation comes just two weeks after an Ecuadorian judge issued an arrest warrant for Colombia’s recently resigned defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos, for his role in a March 1, 2008 raid about a mile inside Ecuadorian territory that killed FARC leader Raúl Reyes and, among others, an Ecuadorian citizen.
  • It has been two months since Santos resigned as Colombia’s defense minister, and Gen. Freddy Padilla, the head of the armed forces, has been sitting in the defense minister’s chair ever since, occupying both positions. This is the longest period in which a military officer has filled the defense minister’s position since 1991, when Colombia returned to having civilian defense ministers. (Generals occupied the position between the 1953 military coup and 1991.) With no successor apparent, it is unclear whether Gen. Padilla should still have the word “interim” in front of his title. Asked about this by El Espectador on July 11, the general replied, “This is not a transition from the military to civilians and back to the military. What is happening is compliance with the Constitution, which does not specify whether it should be a civilian or a soldier, retired or active-duty.”
    • Note as of 11:00 AM July 21: The “Confidenciales” section of Semana magazine has a brief note saying that the next defense minister will be Bernardo Moreno, the current secretary of the presidency and one of President Uribe’s closest advisors.
  • Colombia’s Supreme Court votes tomorrow to choose its preferred candidate, among the three proposed by President Uribe, to be the country’s next prosecutor-general (fiscal general), head of a separate branch of government who will serve a four-year term. This post is critically important because of the central role it will play in investigating scandals like “para-politics,” “false positives,” and the DAS wiretaps, as well as other human rights and “Justice and Peace” cases. The odds-on favorite by far is Camilo Ospina, Uribe’s former defense minister and OAS ambassador. Ospina is controversial because of his authorship of directives rewarding soldiers for high body counts, which may have contributed to the “false positives” scandal in which hundreds of civilians were killed and later presented as armed-group members killed in combat. Ospina also faces questions for his relationship with Víctor Carranza, a businessman who controls much of Colombia’s emerald industry and is very widely accused of being a principal supporter of paramilitary groups. It is possible that Supreme Court magistrates, concerned about Ospina’s closeness to the president, will reject him and the other two candidates by submitting a majority of blank ballots – in effect, a “none of the above” vote.
  • Addressing the issue of possible U.S. use of bases in Colombia, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield told reporters that there are currently about 250 U.S. military personnel in Colombia.
  • Talks between Honduras’ coup government and ousted President Manuel Zelaya stalled on Sunday. The president installed after the military ejected Zelaya, Roberto Micheletti, rejected a seven-point proposal put forward by the talks’ mediator, Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. The U.S. government is supporting Arias and calling for a “Honduran solution” to the dispute. Arias is warning of “a civil war and bloodshed” if dialogues fail. The Costa Rican government says talks may resume Wednesday.
  • Meanwhile, the National Catholic Reporter reveals that although U.S. military aid to Honduras has been frozen, soldiers attending the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (to which Honduras is a top source of students) and other installations have not been sent home.
  • Mexico’s drug cartel violence is getting ever worse. Last week saw the grisly torture and murder of twelve police in Michoacán state, at the hands of a local cartel calling itself “La Familia.” This organization, media reports indicate, coordinates its violence for maximum impact, and at times resembles a religious cult, espousing evangelical Christianity and carrying out social programs in poor neighborhoods.
  • Nicaragua’s government celebrated the 30th anniversary of the July 19, 1979 Sandinista revolution that deposed dictator Anastasio Somoza. Much foreign press coverage focused on Nicaraguansdisaffection with the Sandinistascurrent hard line and consolidation of presidential power. President Daniel Ortega, who at age 33 was a top leader of the junta that took power in 1979, said that he might seek a public “consultation,” Manuel Zelaya-style, about whether Nicaragua’s constitution should be changed to allow him to run again in 2012.
  • The GAO has posted a report documenting increased cocaine trafficking through Venezuela at a time of decreased U.S.-Venezuelan cooperation on drug interdiction. The report was the subject of several articles in the U.S. and regional press, and generated an angry reaction from Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez over the weekend.

17 Responses to “Friday links (Monday edition)”

  1. Común Says:

    What is the difference between the procuraduria and the fiscalia? Are there comparable institutions in the US gov’t?

  2. Camilo Wilson Says:

    For those of us in Latin America, the ‘fiscalia’ corresponds to the public prosecutor in EE.UU. The Fiscal here would be the Attorney General there.

    The procuraduria, on the other hand, is in charge of accountability. Each ministry in our governments has a procurador charged with overseeing conduct within that ministry. Also, there is often a Procurador General, which exercises the same function, but government-wide. The procuraduria corresponds to your General Accountability Office, or GAO.

    Hope this helps.

  3. Camilo Wilson Says:

    One more thing, comun. Procuradurias typically have investigative powers, but not prosecutorial powers. When a procurador investigates and determines a violation, then he/she calls in the fiscalia, which can prosecute. In a few countries, though, the procuraduria also has prosecutorial powers.

  4. lfm Says:

    Am I the only thinking that it is no coincidence that the “smoking-gun” video has been released at the time when the talk about US bases in Colombia’s soil is heating up?

  5. Eric Girard Says:

    My opinion on the video and its release is that it must have something to do with the continuing spat between Correa, Santos, and Uribe. Correa submitted an arrest warrent to INTERPOL on the raid which occured in Ecuador last year, which was rejected about a week ago. The Colombian government has now submitted this . The selective release of this video, as well as other documents, such as those from Raul Reyes computer, and the leaked UN report on coca production levels in 2008, were all done achive most political clout for those associated with their release.

  6. Eric Girard Says:

    submitted this to INTERPOL*

  7. boz Says:

    Am I the only thinking that it is no coincidence that the “smoking-gun” video has been released at the time when the talk about US bases in Colombia’s soil is heating up?

    Actually, it’s probably not linked. This is part of the “seeing patterns where there are none” effect. If this video had come out at any point this year, people would say, “Aha, this story is linked to news event B!!!”, whatever the other event was. Pick any date this year that this story could have been published, and you’d find some event in Colombia or Ecuador that might seem linked. In reality, it’s more likely that news stories are independently timed than there is a causation or correlation factor. Finding stories where there is a causation or correlation factor to another story is really a tougher job than it first appears because human brains are wired to find patterns, even when coinciding events are really just a coincidence.

    I’m willing to be proven wrong if anyone has evidence otherwise, but in this case, it looks like the Colombian government released this video fairly soon after they had decrypted the computer file and run it past their intelligence agencies. This has nothing to do with the base issue and the timing is really more about when they got the video decrypted than any other issue.

  8. Jaime Bustos Says:

    lfm take a look at this


    boz good theory but you have no way to prove the opposite either.

  9. Jaime Bustos Says:

    correction: that the opposite was not the case either …

  10. Marcos Says:

    Claudia López seems to be getting worse and worse these days, but I’m sure that must mean better and better for some people.

    According to her, we must assume that the AP is full of blind and manipulated people, who are lying when they say that the full video still says pretty much the same thing.

    Oh well, I’m sure she must know that from watching isolated clips on Colombian news flashes.

    I’d bet she hasn’t even watched the 15 minutes up on Semana or doesn’t even know that the AP has the entire video and has made specific statements about what they did or didn’t notice in it.

    Clearly, she is a natural expert at everything, by virtue of being anti-Uribe, so she must know what this is all about.



  11. lepetitmort Says:

    A thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts; ambition or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families, or partisans. These and a variety of motives, which affect only the mind of the Sovereign, often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice, or the voice and interests of his people.

  12. lepetitmort Says:

    A new-modeled usage has been brought into English to ease the change of view. In the language of think-tank papers and journalistic profiles over the past two years, one finds a strange conceit beginning to be presented as matter-of-fact: namely the plausibility of the US mapping with forethought a string of wars. Robert Gates put the latest thinking into conventional form, once again, on 60 Minutes in May. Speaking of the Pentagon’s need to focus on the war in Afghanistan, Gates said: “I wanted a department that frankly could walk and chew gum at the same time, that could wage war as we are doing now, at the same time we plan and prepare for tomorrow’s wars.”

    The weird prospect that this usage – “tomorrow’s wars” – renders routine is that we anticipate a good many wars in the near future. We are the ascendant democracy, the exceptional nation in the world of nations. To fight wars is our destiny and our duty. Thus the word “wars” – increasingly in the plural – is becoming the common way we identify not just the wars we are fighting now but all the wars we expect to fight.

    Get with the master plan Isaacson.

  13. lepetitmort Says:

    Have we now grown too used to the employment of our army, navy, and air force to be long at peace, or even to contemplate peace? To speak of a perpetual war against “threats” beyond the horizon, as the Bush Pentagon did, and now the Obama Pentagon does, is to evade the question whether any of the wars is, properly speaking, a war of self-defense.

    At the bottom of that evasion lies the idea of the United States as a nation destined for serial wars. The very idea suggests that we now have a need for an enemy at all times that exceeds the citable evidence of danger at any given time. In The Sorrows of Empire, Chalmers Johnson gave a convincing account of the economic rationale of the American national security state, its industrial and military base, and its manufacturing outworks.

    It is not only the vast extent and power of our standing army that stares down every motion toward reform. Nor is the cause entirely traceable to our pursuit of refined weapons and lethal technology, or the military bases with which the US has encircled the globe, or the financial interests, the Halliburtons and Raytheons, the DynCorps and Blackwaters that combine against peace with demands in excess of the British East India Company at the height of its influence. There is a deeper puzzle in the relationship of the military itself to the rest of American society. For the American military now encompasses an officer class with the character and privileges of a native aristocracy, and a rank-and-file for whom the best possibilities of socialism have been realized.

    Barack Obama has compared the change he aims to accomplish in foreign policy to the turning of a very large ship at sea. The truth is that, in Obama’s hands, “force projection” by the US has turned already, but in more than one direction. He has set internal rhetorical limits on our provocations to war by declining to speak, as his predecessor did, of the spread of democracy by force or the feasibility of regime change as a remedy for grievances against hostile countries. And yet we may be certain that none of the wars the new undersecretary of defense for policy is preparing will be a war of pure self-defense – the only kind of war the American founders would have countenanced. None of the current plans, to judge by Bumiller’s article, is aimed at guarding the US against a power that could overwhelm us at home. To find such a power, we would have to search far beyond the horizon.

    The future wars of choice for the Defense Department appear to be wars of heavy bombing and light-to-medium occupation. The weapons will be drones in the sky and the soldiers will be, as far as possible, special forces operatives charged with executing “black ops” from village to village and tribe to tribe. It seems improbable that such wars which will require free passage over sovereign states for the Army, Marines, and Air Force, and the suppression of native resistance to occupation, can long be pursued without de facto reliance on regime change. Only a puppet government can be thoroughly trusted to act against its own people in support of a foreign power.

    Such are the wars designed and fought today in the name of American safety and security. They embody a policy altogether opposed to an idealism of liberty that persisted from the founding of the US far into the twentieth century. It is easy to dismiss the contrast that Washington, Paine, and others drew between the morals of a republic and the appetites of an empire. Yet the point of that contrast was simple, literal, and in no way elusive. It captured a permanent truth about citizenship in a democracy. You cannot, it said, continue a free people while accepting the fruits of conquest and domination. The passive beneficiaries of masters are also slaves.

    David Bromwich, the editor of a selection of Edmund Burke’s speeches, On Empire, Liberty, and Reform, has written on the constitution and America’s wars for The New York Review of Books and The Huffington Post.

  14. Chris Says:


    Everything has to be agreed upon by not just us, but the rest of the world. That’s the biggest problem with everyone’s theories. They get pummeled when they’re put to the test in the real world. Why, because we are all individuals and act like it. We have to plan for that moment when an individual disagrees with us, for whatever reason, and acts. It’s preferable to respond to that individual before he acts, lest we or others suffer to some degree (hate to you this tired example — Hitler… lesson learned there, don’t wait to take action).

  15. lepetitmort Says:

    Chris, I couldn’t disagree with you more. Everybody’s security must be provided for in this utopian accord you attach to international diplomacy. The real problem here is that while your country has enough nuclear bombs to defend itself for all eternity (without even an army) it has decided to engage in those wars described by the Federalist papers I quoted above. That is the root of all evil, the ambition for empire this society has, willingly for the most part, engaged in.


    Por: Senador Jorge Enrique Robledo
    Artículo completo en:

    (….) Una decisión inconstitucional e ilegal

    Y por último, debo decirles que lo que están haciendo es absolutamente ilegal. Les pido a los ministros que me muestren un solo artículo de la Constitución que autorice establecer en Colombia instalaciones de tropas extranjeras y que autorice a tropas extranjeras operar en nuestro territorio. Muéstrenme un solo artículo. Y muéstrenme un solo artículo que los faculte a ustedes a hacer eso sin el permiso del Senado. Son dos discusiones diferentes. No hay un solo artículo de la Constitución que les permita hacer lo que van a hacer. Y menos todavía que un acuerdo internacional de este calibre se celebre sin autorización del Congreso de la República. Sobre este aspecto hay documentos de fondo. Les comento algo que muchos colombianos ignoran. ¿Saben en qué normas, y me lo dijo el señor canciller en una respuesta muy amable y oportuna que me dio, se están apoyando las bases? Como también el Plan Colombia, porque la ilegalidad viene de atrás. Primero, en la Ley 24 de 1959, del gobierno de Alberto Lleras Camargo, en la que no aparecen por ninguna parte las palabras militar, conflicto bélico, guerra, barcos, aviones, nada. Trata solo sobre asuntos económicos. No habla ni siquiera de acuerdos con gobiernos. Hay un concepto del procurador general de la Nación, según el cual el gobierno no se puede seguir apoyando en esa ley para acuerdos internacionales. Y le ha pedido a la Corte Constitucional tomar cartas en el asunto, porque todo lo que se viene tramitando es ilegal.

    ¿Y saben cuál es el segundo gran documento en que se apoyan? Un convenio suscrito por los gobiernos de Colombia y Estados Unidos para la “ayuda económica, técnica y afín” (del 23 de julio de 1962), un convenio que apunta a mejorar la vida rural, la vivienda, los servicios colectivos, los sistemas educativos, los servicios de adiestramiento y salud pública. Les pregunto a ustedes, senadores, que fabrican las leyes, si es lógico que se intente tramitar este tratado mediante una ley y un convenio que no tienen nada que ver con asuntos de la guerra ni del narcotráfico ni del control del mundo ni de nada, con el cuento de que los asuntos de la guerra y el narcotráfico afectan de manera indirecta la economía. Esto me recuerda el chiste flojo ese del estudiante que solo se había aprendido el tema del gusano. Como fue sobre el elefante que el profesor le hizo el examen, el muchacho dijo entonces que el elefante tenía una trompa larga que se parecía a un gusano, y los gusanos se dividen en no sé qué y no sé cuántos. Todo esto es una burla. Cogen una ley que nada tiene que ver, cogen un convenio que tampoco tiene nada que ver, y les meten un anexo, como hizo el muchacho con el gusano y la trompa del elefante, para poder justificar lo que se está haciendo, violando de manera flagrante la Constitución y la ley.

    Lo anterior es lo que explica por qué el trámite no pasa por el Senado, porque si lo hiciera, los senadores tendrían que examinar por fuerza en qué ley se apoya el proyecto y por qué se aduce que no es un tratado. Con franqueza les digo, ministros, este es un hecho demasiado grave. Presenten un proyecto de ley para que se discuta y se vote en el Senado, como lo hicieron en el caso del TLC. Es muy probable que lo ganen. Pero permitan el trámite de una ley con seriedad y rigor y además con un elemento adicional que ustedes quieren evadir, el control de constitucionalidad. Quisiera ver cuál Corte Constitucional lo aprobaría, con la Ley 24 de 1959 y con el convenio este de los Cuerpos de Paz, de la Alianza para el Progreso. ¡Con un convenio de la Alianza para el Progreso, senadora Cecilia López, nos quieren imponer un tratado de guerra! No lo puede el gobierno tramitar en el Congreso porque tiene esta debilidad.

    Esta es una de las peores decisiones en la historia de la República. Y entre todos sus defectos de fondo, de contenido, adolece de un problema tremendamente grave, y es que se está tramitando de una manera absolutamente inadecuada y a mi juicio inconstitucional e ilegal, mediante una maniobra que debo denunciar como tal, porque no es serio que se le pegue a una ley o a un convenio cualquier cosa. Es absolutamente inaceptable. Tenemos que ser serios con el país cumpliendo con rigor las leyes de la República.

  16. Camilo Wilson Says:

    An excellent post, Little Dead One. Very informative. I would argue, Lepetitmort, that in some sense Colombia is already a “puppet government,” at least for now.

    The U.S. security force configuration beginning to appear in the Andes, with focus on Colombia, comes right out of the past as regards U. S. policy toward Latin America. Resentment in the region is already growing. Many of us in the region expected more of Obama. What is happening troubles us. And it may also trouble the U.S. in years to come, if not months.

    Obama’s appointments foretold the configuration. His appointment as undersecretary for inter-American affairs advocated the U.S. military aid package to Plan Colombia while in the Latin chair on the National Security Council under Bill Clinton. Obama’s appointment to the NSC’s current Latin seat is a Colombian American and grandson of a Colombian ambassador to the U.S. These persons have for months (before and during the Democratic National Convention in Denver) had a cozy relationship with Uribe’s ambassador to Washington, daughter of a former president, and with others in Uribe’s government, including Juan Manuel Santos, until recently Colombia’s Minister of Defense, and maybe its next president. Alas, these dons on horseback are poised to ride a Pentagon-trained horse. They will not control its reins, but rather will clear debris in its path in exchange for jobs at court. As it often is, the irresistible glitter of power trumps all…

    As for Venezuela, whatever relations that Chavez is said to have with the FARC will grow stronger. The FARC and Chavez have an important bond: both see themselves as combating “U.S. imperialism.” And the new configuration will drive the rebels deeper into the selvas as well into the drugs trade, an effect already of so-called Plan Colombia. Washington’s worst fears may be hastened, from Iranian influence to shoulder-fired missiles in the hands of insurgents.

    As I follow the scenario now seeming to coalesce, history leads me to predict that the U.S.–the C.I.A.–will look to create some sort of relationship with disaffected elements of Chavez’s military in order to remove Chavez from power. Very risky indeed should this be the plan, for Chavez has much support among disenfranchised Venezuelans, and I suspect that well-armed pro-Chavez militias would oppose such a move. Substantial bloodshed would result.

    Beyond this, the move would further kindle long-held resentment of the U.S. throughout the region, especially among marginalized peoples, peoples now beginning to make themselves politically felt in lands where left-of-center regimes govern 60 percent of the population.

    The potential for conflict over much of the Americas is high. We need look only at Central American. In one sense, the wars of the 1980s in that region are not over. Many of the causal factors of those bloody times remain active. Honduras is a case in point.

    Obama, like so many other U.S. presidents before him, has chosen the path of conflict and war over that of peace, development, and social justice for the vast majority of the continent’s citizens. The threats to U.S. national security can only increase.

  17. Chris Says:

    Little Dead One,

    Are you a proponent of isolationism?

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