South American nations upset over US plans for ColombiaAugust 8th, 2009 - 8:03 am ICT by IANS
Quito, Aug 8 (DPA) Many South American nations have made clear their displeasure with Colombia’s plans to allow the US use its seven military bases, and the issue is likely to feature when the region’s leaders meet here Monday.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is not set to attend the summit of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur). His country has not had diplomatic ties with host Ecuador for over a year, following a cross-border Colombian Army raid that targeted a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on Ecuadorian soil.
Bogota is considering granting the US military increased access to bases within Colombia. The official reason is the fight against drug trafficking, which fuels the activities of leftist Colombian rebels that have been fighting the state for more than 40 years.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a long-time antagonist of Uribe, has voiced strong opposition to Colombia’s plans, and moved to freeze ties with Bogota as well as recalling the ambassador. He considers the narcotics interdiction a pretense, and he has accused the US of seeking to establish Colombia as a “Yankee” platform for attacks on other countries in Latin America.
As is often the case, Chavez is the most outspoken critic of US plans in Latin America, but other leaders around the region have expressed reservations too.
This week, Uribe toured seven South American countries to explain his plans.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva demanded formal guarantees that the planned deal between Bogota and Washington would not allow the use of Colombian bases to launch actions on other countries in the region.
“It is essential to grant some kind of formal guarantee, a legal guarantee, that possible (US military) operations will happen strictly within Colombian territory,” Brazilian presidential spokesman Marcelo Baumbach stressed Friday.
“There is a suggestion for there to be greater transparency,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim had said earlier.
According to Amorim, Lula hopes all doubts can be dispelled “calmly, based on technical considerations” at the Unasur summit. Lula stressed that he favours “bilateral and multilateral cooperation between South American nations to combat drug trafficking, without external interferences”.
The Unasur summit is scheduled to coincide with the inauguration of Rafael Correa Monday for a further term as Ecuadorian president. Correa, who took office in January 2007, moved to change the country’s constitution and was re-elected under new rules in April.
Ecuador has invited ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to the inauguration ceremony. Indeed, Unasur is certain to issue a formal condemnation of the coup that removed Zelaya from power June 28.
Zelaya, a democratically-elected leader, had tried to change the Honduran constitution so he, too, could run for re-election, triggering opposition forces to send him into exile.
At this summit, Ecuador is set to take over the rotating presidency of Unasur, an organisation that was formally set up in May 2008 and brings together the region’s 12 countries.
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