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US-Colombia military deal: Threat of imperialist-backed war on Venezuela

By Kiraz Janicke

November 9, 2009 --  -- The possibility of an imperialist-backed war in the Americas came a step closer on October 30, when Colombia and the United States finalised a 10-year accord allowing the US to massively expand its military presence in the Latin American country. The move comes as the US. seeks to regain its hegemony over Latin America – which has declined over the past decade in the context of a continent-wide rebellion against neoliberalism spearheaded by the revolution in Venezuela, led by President Hugo Chavez.

In order to regain control of its “backyard”, the US is increasingly resorting to more interventionist measures. This is reflected by the recent military coup in Honduras, the destabilisation of progressive governments in Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay, and a massive military build up in the region, including new military bases in Panama and the reactivation of the US navy's Fourth Fleet.

Over the past decade the Venezuelan government, which is the fifth-largest oil exporter in the world, has used its control over this resource to massively increase social spending. This has resulted in significant achievements, such as poverty levels being reduced by half, the eradication of illiteracy, and the provision free universal education and healthcare for the poor.

In 2005 Chavez declared the revolution to be socialist in its aims. Since then, in addition to regular elections and referendums, the government has sought to promote grassroots democracy and participation, through the creation of institutions such as urban land committees, health committees, grassroots assemblies, communes, workers’ councils and communal councils.

However, these pro-poor and redistributive policies have increasingly brought the Chavez government into conflict with powerful economic interests both in Venezuela and the US. The new military bases deal with US ally Colombia poses a direct threat to this radical process of social change.

Propaganda campaign

Hand in hand with this military build up has come a fraudulent propaganda campaign that tries to paint the democratically elected Chavez government as a “dictatorship” and claims that include that the government promotes drug trafficking and supplies arms to left-wing guerrillas in Colombia.

Tensions between Venezuela and the US-aligned government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have also increased with the deal. As the negotiations came to light in July, Chavez ordered the “freezing” of all diplomatic and commercial relations with Colombia.

With the finalisation of the US-Colombia accord Chavez declared that Colombia had handed over its sovereignty to the US. “Colombia today is no longer a sovereign country... it is a kind of colony”, he said.

Under the deal, the US military has access, use and free movement among two air bases, two naval bases and three army bases, in addition to an existing two military bases, as well as all international civilian airports across the country. The deal also grants US personnel full diplomatic immunity for any human rights abuses or other crimes committed on Colombian soil.

Among other things, US military, civilian and diplomatic personnel and contractors covered by the accord are also exempt from customs duties, tariffs, rent and taxes, while ships and planes are exempt from most cargo inspections.

Although US officials claim publicly that only 800 personnel will operate in Colombia the deal places no limits on the numbers of military personnel that can be deployed.

Launch pad for military intervention

US President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly denied that under the accord Colombia will be used as a launching pad for military interventions in other South American countries.

However, as James Suggett pointed out in a recent article, the US military’s financial documents tell a different story.

“The Pentagon budget for the year 2010 says the Department of Defense seeks ‘an array of access arrangements for contingency operations, logistics, and training in Central/South America,’ and cites a $46 million investment in the “development” of Colombia’s Palanquero air base as a key part of this”, Suggett wrote.

Also the 2010 fiscal year budget of the US Air Force Military Construction Program describes the Palanquero base as a “Cooperative Security Location (CSL)”, which “provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical subregion of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, [author’s emphasis] endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters.”

“A presence [at the Palanquero base] will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation, and expand expeditionary warfare capability”, the budget document states.

“It also supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent, except the Cape Horn region, if fuel is available, and over half of the continent if unrefueled”, the budget continues.

On August 10, Chavez said in an open letter to all South American presidents that the US-Colombian bases deal shows that the US empire wants to “control our resources”.

Colombian paramilitaries operating illegally in Venezuela’s oil rich border regions, together with the right-wing opposition in Venezuela, are the advance guard of this imperialist project to destabilise and ultimately defeat the Bolivarian Revolution.

`Pre-war situation'?

Tensions flared in recent weeks when the bodies of nine Colombians believed to have been executed by an illegal armed group were found dumped in the border state of Tachira. The Venezuelan government said the group was part of a “paramilitary infiltration plan”.

In addition, Venezuela announced that it has captured three Colombians accused of spying for Colombia’s intelligence service, the Administrative Security Department (DAS), as well as documents that indicate that Colombia sent spies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as part of a CIA operation.

Then on November 2, two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot dead at a border checkpoint by armed gunmen. In response the Venezuelan army has begun massive security sweeps of the border region where paramilitary groups, Colombian guerrillas, extortion and kidnapping rings and smugglers are rife.

Trade between the two countries dropped a dramatic 49.5% for September, after Chavez ordered commercial relations to be “reduced to zero” to protest the bases.

Former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, who has criticised the bases deal, said in a recent interview “we are in a pre-war situation… the situation could harden and reach extremes”.

Brazil, the major economy in South America, has called for “dialogue” between Chavez and Uribe.

While an armed conflict is a possibility, the current tactic of the US is to continue undermining and destabilising the Venezuelan revolution in the hope that it will collapse under its own weight.

A war would also be dangerous for US imperialism already bogged down in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even a proxy war via Colombia would be likely to spiral out of control. Latin America’s poor, downtrodden and marginalised have had a taste of independence; it is likely they would fight back.

[Kiraz Janicke is a member of the Australian Socialist Alliance resident in Venezuela. An abridged version of this article was published on November 7, 2009, in Green Left Weekly].


Official US Air Force document reveals true intentions behind US-Colombia military agreement

By Eva Golinger

November 5, 2009 -- -- An official document from the Department of the US Air Force reveals that the military base in Palanquero, Colombia, will provide the Pentagon with “…an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America”. This information contradicts the explanations offered by Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe and the US State Department regarding the military agreement signed between the two countries on October 30.

Both governments have stated that the military agreement refers only to counternarcotics and counterterrorism operations within Colombian territory. President Uribe has reiterated numerous times that the military agreement with the US will not affect Colombia’s neighbours, despite constant concern in the region regarding the true objetives of the agreement. But a US Air Force document, dated May 2009, confirms that the fears of South American governments have been right on target. The document reveals that the aim is to allow the US to engage in “full spectrum military operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies … and anti-US governments...”.

The military agreement between Washington and Colombia authorises the access and use of seven military installations in Palanquero, Malambo, Tolemaida, Larandia, Apíay, Cartagena and Málaga. Additionally, the agreement allows for “the access and use of all other installations and locations as necessary” throughout Colombia, with no restrictions. Together with the complete immunity the agreement provides to US military and civilian personnel, including private defence and security contractors, the clause authorising the US to utilise any installation throughout the entire country -- even commercial aiports -- for military ends signifies a complete renouncing of Colombia's sovereignty and officially converts Colombia into a client state of the US.

The US Air Force document underlines the importance of the military base in Palanquero and justifies the US$46 million requested in the 2010 budget (now approved by US Congress) in order to improve the airfield, associated ramps and other installations on the base to convert it into a US Cooperative Security Location (CSL).

“Establishing a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in Palanquero best supports the COCOM’s (Command Combatant’s) Theater Posture Strategy and demonstrates our commitment to this relationship. Development of this CSL provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from narcotics funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters”, the document states.

It’s not difficult to imagine which governments in South America are considered by Washington to be “anti-US governments”. The constant agressive declarations and statements emitted by the US state and defence departments and the US Congress against Venezuela and Bolivia, and even to some extent Ecuador, evidence that the ALBA countries are the ones perceived by Washington as a “constant threat”. To classify a country as “anti-US” is to consider it an enemy of the United States. In this context, it’s obvious that the military agreement with Colombia is a reaction to a region the US now considers full of “enemies”.

“Access to Colombia will further its strategic partnership with the United States. The strong security cooperation relationship also offers an opportunity for conducting full spectrum operations throughout South America to include mitigating the counternarcotics capability.” This statement clearly evidences that counternarcotics operations are secondary to the real objectives of the military agreement between Colombia and Washington. Again, this clearly contrasts the constant declarations of the Uribe and Obama governments insisting that the main focus of the agreement is to combat drug trafficking and production. The Air Force document emphasises the necessity to improve “full spectrum” military operations throughout South America – not just in Colombia – in order to combat “constant threats” from “anti-US governments” in the region.


The Air Force document explains that “Palanquero is unquestionably the best site for investing in infrastructure development within Colombia. Its central location is within reach of … operations areas … its isolation maximizes Operational Security (OPSEC) and Force Protection and minimizes the US military profile. The intent is to leverage existing infrastructure to the maximum extent possible, improve the US ability to respond rapidly to crisis, and assure regional access and presence at minimum cost. Palanquero supports the mobility mission by providing access to the entire South American continent with the exception of Cape Horn…”

Espionage and warfare

The document additionally confirms that the US military presence in Palanquero will improve the capacity of espionage and intelligence operations, and will allow US armed forces to increase their warfare capabilities in the region. “Development of this CSL will further the strategic partnership forged between the US and Colombia and is in the interest of both nations… A presence will also increase our capability to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach, support logistics requirements, improve partnerships, improve theater security cooperation and expand expeditionary warfare capability.”

The language of war included in this document is evidence of the true intentions behind the military agreement: preparing for war in Latin America. The past few days have been full of conflict and tension between Colombia and Venezuela. Just days ago, the Venezuelan government captured three spies from the Colombian intelligence agency, DAS, and discovered several active destabilisation and espionage operations against Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. The operations -- Fénix, Salomón and Falcón, respectively -- were revealed in documents found with the captured DAS agents.

Approximately two weeks ago, 10 bodies were found in Táchira, a border zone with Colombia. After completing the relevant investigations, the Venezuelan government discovered that the bodies belonged to Colombian paramilitaries infiltrated inside Venezuelan territory. This dangerous paramilitary infiltration from Colombia forms part of a destabilisation plan against Venezuela that seeks to create a paramilitary state inside Venezuelan territory in order to breakdown President Chávez’s government.

The military agreement between Washington and Colombia will only increase regional tensions and violence. The information revealed in the US Air Force document unquestionably is evidence that Washington seeks to promote a state of warfare in South America, using Colombia as its launching pad. Before this declaration of war, the peoples of Latin America must stand strong and unified. Latin American integration is the best defence against the Empire’s aggression.

*The US Air Force document was submitted in May 2009 to US Congress as part of the 2010 budget justification. It is an official government document and reaffirms the authenticity of the White Book: Global Enroute Strategy of the US Air Mobility Command, which was denounced by President Chávez during the UNASUR meeting in Bariloche, Argentina, on August 28. I have placed the original document and the non-official translation into Spanish of the relevant parts relating to Palanquero on the web page of the Center to Alert and Defend the People, a new space created to guarantee that strategic information is available to those under constant threat from imperialist aggression. The original document in English is at


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