On August 11, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez declared the readiness of the South American countries to discuss with US President Barrack Obama the location of US army bases in Colombia.
The summit of 11 heads of the UNASUR states, the South American Union of the Nations, took place in Ecuador the day before the announcement. The issue of US army bases in Colombia was discussed at the summit, however, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, the USA’s staunch ally in the region, was absent from the forum.
On August 5 Gen. Freddy Padilla de Leon, temporarily assuming the position of the Minister of Defense of this country, declared that Colombia would grant the United States access to seven military bases on the Columbian territory.
According to his words, the number of US troops would not exceed 800. In the nearest future the countries are going to conclude the treaty of cooperation in the sphere of defense and safety, according to which the USA will invest 5 billion dollars into the infrastructure of the army bases.
Colombian officials released the statement about the deployment of the American military forces as early as July, 27th. At the same time the country’s authorities accused the main opponent of the USA in the region, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, of supplying weapons to the Colombian FARC rebels.
On July, 29 Chavez recalled the ambassador, accused the Colombian authorities of slander, and of indulgence to the American imperialism.
Afterwards, on July 30 and on August 5, Chavez declared the intention to buy a batch of tanks and jets, explaining it with the possibility of the USA’s invasion in Venezuela after the deployment of the American bases in Colombia.
On August 8, Chavez announced the revision of diplomatic relations with Colombia. He is also proposed to deploy “peace bases” as a counter to “Yankees’ military bases”.
However, the influence of the USA was obvious at the UNASUR summit. The US intends to come back to the region, that was under its foot 20 years ago, but at the moment is going out of control.
The decision to recover the erstwhile positions could be explained with two reasons. Firstly, the USA’s reputation in other countries proved to have been shattered. And secondly, China is actively substituting the USA on the local market.
The consent of Colombia to deploy the bases turned out to be helpful to the USA. In autumn the lease term of the Manta Naval Base located in Ecuador will expire, but Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa known for his warm relations with Chavez, refused to prolong the rent.
As early as June the USA asserted that it was not seeking new bases in Latin America, but it would use the existing bases in El Salvador, on the Curacao Island and in Florida. But the US failed to suit the action to the word, which raised concerns with many countries of the region.
At the moment South America suspects that the USA and Colombia military union may endanger peace and stability. Bolivian President Evo Morales declared August 7: “Bolivia has its own dignity even though it is a small country, and we will never allow any foreign military base on our territory.”
Brazil ’s Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva pointed out at the summit, that the relations between the USA and the South American countries were problematic. He also stressed out the importance of political dialogue between the UNASUR and the USA.
Brazil’s Foreign Minister Celso Amorim demanded an explanation from both the USA and Colombia .
“Colombia is a sovereign country and has the right to do what they want in their territory... but it is important to have transparency and clarity.” The Minister of Foreign Affairs also expressed his concern about the “strong military presence” in Colombia.
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner has urged the authorities of the Latin American countries to hold an urgent meeting with the Colombian leader. She was also concerned about the possible deployment of army bases that by her opinion may escalate the military tension in the region. The President of Chile Michelle Bachelet supported her Argentine counterpart.
Hugo Chavez was the most emotional speaker. He said that the provision of seven bases for the US troops would help the USA commit intervention in order to seize the Venezuelan oil fields. The president indicated that the Colombian authorities have already attempted provocations. Chavez announced that he had denounced the energy agreement with the neighbouring country.
The UNASUR summit was concluded after the members signed the final declaration. The declaration touched the question of deployment of the US military bases in Colombia. The leaders of the countries decided to discuss the issue again at a meeting scheduled for August 24.
Thus, almost all the leading countries of the region expressed their concerns about the USA’s activities in South America. However, most countries are ready to maintain a dialogue with Washington.