Saturday, October 31, 2009

Colombia and the US sign military pact to fight cocaine trade + Comment

October 31, 2009

Colombia and the US sign military pact to fight cocaine trade

Behind closed doors and with little fanfare, the US and Colombia signed a military pact yesterday to expand the presence of US troops in the South American country, a deal that caused stand-off with neighbouring Venezuela.

The agreement, which allows the US to use seven Colombian military bases for anti-narcotics and terrorism operations in the world's largest cocaine producer, has ruffled feathers across a continent historically sensitive to US interference.

The charge has been led by the anti-imperialist Venezuelan president, Hugo Chávez, and his leftist allies in nations such as Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua, who claim that Washington plans to use Colombia to launch operations against its foes in the region.

This week has seen the escalation of a conflict between the neighbours, who have long exchanged accusations of nefarious activities. Mr Chávez, who survived a 2002 coup attempt that he claims was US-backed, had already warned that "the winds of war" were blowing across Latin America and put his troops on alert when the deal was announced in the summer.

He claimed to have captured three Colombian spies this week sent to destabilise his revolutionary government in the oil-rich nation, linking the alleged arrests to the agreement and claiming that the US was behind the espionage.

On the eve of the deal Mr Chávez said: "The Nobel Peace Prize is won withdrawing the US bases from Colombia."

Colombia says that the former paratrooper is attempting to distract from his support of Farc leftist guerrillas and the associated drug trade. Bogotá claims that Mr Chávez provides not only a haven to Colombian paramilitaries but funds and weapons, and that most cocaine-laden flights leave from Venezuela.

Mr Chávez mocked such claims as "mentally feeble, if not mentally retarded". "Perhaps those planes come from the moon?" he said.

He said that Colombian trafficking had doubled since the arrival of US personnel under Plan Colombia in 2000. "Where the Yankee troops go also goes drug trafficking: just ask Afghanistan and Vietnam."

Jaime Bermudez, the Colombian Foreign Minister, told The Times that the opposition of some leaders to the deal was based on "prejudice and ideological reasons" and that Bogotá was not asking for their support. The agreement precluded operations outside Colombia and incursions into Venezuela were "not a possibility".

The deal allows US troops to increase their presence at Colombian bases for ten years, up to a legal limit of 1,400 military personnel and US contractors from 600. The move comes after President Correa of Ecuador, a close ally of Mr Chávez, refused to renew a US lease on its Manta base, Washington's former operations hub in the region.

US counter-narcotics flights will be based at the Palanquero facility in Magdalena, where construction work is planned to expand facilities. The top American defence official for Latin America, Frank Mora, said that there will be no US offensive capacity such as fighter jets at the bases. Despite some local concern over immunity from prosecution for US forces, polls show that the deal is highly popular in Colombia, which has been wracked by a 50-year-old insurgency.


Comment: The people living inside the United States are the biggest population with money who keep the whole drug trade traffic thriving in the billions of dollars. We should stop engaging in the failed war on drugs, which translates into a war on poor oppressed drug addicts who often wind up in prison for simple possession. We need to work on social conditions involving the misery of poverty and weight of oppression on poor people that make them want to escape via drugs/booze and other false escape hatches. We need drug treatment programs here inside the United States and need to work on the spiritual roots of drug abuse and addiction that are found within our spiritual disorders, not in the drugs themselves. Most thinking people understand that drugs are big business and good for the drug companies. Most addicts are drug addicts who are strung out on unneeded prescriptions that help make the drug czars richer and richer!

Education for Liberation! Venceremos Unidos!

Peter S. López, Jr. aka~Peta



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