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Issue # 1427      9 September 2009

Summit yields unified response to US bases

The presidents of 12 South American nations held a special Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) summit meeting in Bariloche, Argentina to deal with the United States having gained access to and use of seven military bases in Colombia.

One of several organisations espousing Latin American integration, the Union of South American Nations, was launched in May 2008 to promote “a new model of integration” favouring “more equitable, harmonious, and unifying development.” Projects have included investigation of a peasant massacre last September in Pando, Bolivia and, at its third summit on August 11 in Quito, condemnation of the coup removing Honduran President Manuel Zelaya.

UNASUR represents the great majority of South American nations and peoples, including Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Paraguay, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela, with a total population more than 370 million, compared to the US population of 300 million.

Welcoming the delegates, host President Cristina Fernández of Argentina urged the development of rules for dealing with the installation of foreign military bases in member states. “We don’t need high decibel speeches obscuring the facts we have to deal with here,” she cautioned.

At day’s end, divisions cropped up between moderate forces content with devising long-term solutions and advocates for immediate steps, represented by the presidents of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela.

An initial statement called for mutual trust among member states, respect for national sovereignty, the virtues of regional integration and peaceful solutions, and protection of national resources. It suggested South American nations themselves should deal with transnational crime, drug trafficking, and “actions by armed groups at the margin of the law.”

Among five specific points, one identified South America as a “zone of peace” and another warned against foreign military forces threatening the sovereignty of individual nations. The Declaration instructed ministers of defence and foreign relations to meet in September to “design measures to promote confidence and security, including concrete means for implementation.” It also instructed the UNASUR defence council to study national borders and the US “Aerial Mobility Command White Paper” (see below), and its drug trafficking council to develop a regional strategy.

Demands surfaced, however, for forthright action, and for condemnations of the US and Colombian governments. A majority sought details of the US-Colombian agreement on military bases. They backed a proposal for meeting with US President Barack Obama, proposed by Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva.

Bolivian President Evo Morales took the lead in calling – in vain – for a document signed by all presidents declaring foreign bases as unacceptable in South American nations. Recalling a history “full of political and military interventions by the United States,” he accused Washington of creating “distrust among heads of state working for unity among the Latin American peoples.”

Rafael Correa, president of Ecuador, pointed out that Colombian internal conflict victimises neighbouring countries. He designated South American nations as primarily responsible for combating international drug trafficking. Citing data from experience with the US base in Manta, he suggested that verification and control of activities at US bases was impossible.

President Hugo Chávez regarded the US bases in Colombia as part of “the strategy for global domination by the United States [rather than] helping Colombia combat narco-terrorism.” He pointed to the US “Air Mobility Command White Paper” accessible at <>. One section reads in part: “USSOUTHCOM has identified Palanquero, Colombia … as a cooperative security location (CSL). From this location, nearly half of the continent can be covered by a C-17 without refuelling.” Once refuelled, “a C-17 could cover the entire continent” except for Cape Horn.

Chávez suggested that the Palanquero base, with long runways, would facilitate the US military’s air access to Africa and use of nuclear-armed aircraft in South America.

Colombian President Uribe was isolated like “a fly in a glass of milk,” President Morales observed. Such was Uribe’s discomfiture, that, according to Carlos Lozano, the editor of Voz, the newspaper of the Colombian Communist Party, he committed “the discourteous act of not wanting to pose for the official photograph.” Lozano added, “Uribe is a poor peon of the empire and nothing more.” More bad news descended upon Uribe when, back in Bogota, he was diagnosed with H1N1 influenza.

For Carlos Lozano, “the great loser [at the summit] was the empire and its politics,” which he and others attributed to Latin America’s unified response to imperialist schemes, a new phenomenon.

People’s Weekly World

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