The United States and Colombia this morning signed a 10-year agreement which will allow increased access by the U.S. military to seven of Colombia's military bases. The details of the agreement have not yet been released by the U.S. or Colombian governments.
The Washington Office on Latin America sees such an agreement as having the potential to increase tensions in the region at a time when an escalation of diplomatic involvement is what is needed.
"This appears to be an agreement without borders," said George Withers, Senior Fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America. "It is unclear what restrictions are to be placed on U.S. military using these bases. While the Department of State and the Department of Defense say that it is not their ‘intent' for U.S. activity to go beyond the borders of Colombia, this is a 10-year agreement and intentions can change. Without specific restrictions in writing, the nations of the region have reason to express concern, as many in the Union of South American Nations have."
The controversy over the agreement is evident within Colombia as well. The Uribe administration is in disagreement with the legislature over whether or not the accord needs to be approved by their Congress.
"The Obama administration has called for a new multilateral approach to foreign policy," said Withers. "This agreement represents a serious departure from that goal. Diplomatically, this is a setback for the U.S., and any commensurate gains in the as-yet unsuccessful military counter-drug mission are uncertain at best."
Three Colombian air force bases as well as two naval facilities and two army bases are included in the agreement. The United States' desire for the access was increased substantially after the U.S. agreement to use a base in Manta, Ecuador for counter-drug activities expired.
George Withers (202) 797-2171 or (301) 908-4765