U.S. Military in Colombia – SOAW

“In the Fall of 2009, U.S. and Colombian officials signed an agreement granting the U.S. military access to seven Colombian bases for ten years.

SOA Watch is extremely concerned about the drastic increase of U.S. militarization in Latin America. The bases agreement operates from the same failed military mindset that has given rise to the School of the Americas (SOA/ WHINSEC). The purpose of the bases and the purpose of the SOA/ WHINSEC are the same: to ensure U.S. control over the region through military means.

Already, the SOA/ WHINSEC is deploying “Mobile Training Teams” to Colombia and other Latin American countries, that train hundreds of soldiers annually. Over 10,000 soldiers of the Colombian military (the military with the worst human rights record in the Americas) have received SOA/ WHINSEC training and used the lessons learned in their brutal war that has left thousands dead and millions displaced.”

In their article ‘Seven Bases’, Diane Lefer and Hector Aristizabal look at the history of each of these bases as well as conditions in the surrounding communities and Colombia as a whole. Below is an excerpt – please click on this LINK to read the full article. After the excerpt is a 21-minute video about the agreement

Seven Bases

by Diane Lefer and Hector Aristizábal

U.S. and Colombian officials signed an agreement granting the U.S. military access to seven Colombian bases for ten years. The United States thereby increased its ties to the military known for the worst human rights abuses in the Western Hemisphere and is a troubling indication of what can be expected of the Obama Administration and its promise of change. Does this agreement (signed in the fall of 2009) really change anything? We take a look at the history of each of these bases as well as conditions in the surrounding communities and the nation as a whole.

#1: Tolemaida

This base, located in Melgar, Cundinamarca, has been sending students to the School of the Americas for Army Ranger training for more than 50 years. The US military and its contractors already have a long association with the base where they have enjoyed immunity from prosecution for such crimes as the rape and sexual abuse of Colombian girls as young as twelve (documented by video), and the trafficking for profit of arms to illegal paramilitary groups. The new agreement will allow unparalleled access by the US armed forces and will apparently continue diplomatic immunity for US personnel, both military and civilian. In Bogotá, just 43 miles to the northeast, more than 1,000 people arrive each day as they flee violence aimed at stealing their small rural landholdings usually for the benefit of paramilitary bosses, narcotraffickers, transnational corporations and their government allies. The US-supported Colombian military has done nothing to protect approximately 4 million internally displaced people, 75 percent of whom are women and children, left homeless and impoverished.While US policy is to fund the war on drugs and the war on the FARC, the cocaine trade provides employment and income to more than one million Colombians and the armed conflict is one of the nation’s largest sources of work. In Colombia, a minority of the population has steady employment. Most of the potential workforce consists of the unemployed, those who’ve given up looking for work or who participate in the informal economy of day laborers, street vendors, armed insurgents, and criminals. Workers lucky enough to have steady employment for a 48-hour week at the minimum wage do not earn enough to purchase a basic market basket of goods for a family of four. The Colombian Ministry of Defense has estimated that more than 4,600 FARC members and more than 1,300 ELN members are minors and that most guerrilla fighters had joined the guerrilla ranks as children. Witness for Peace learned of a school in Bogotá where 80 children dropped out in a single semester to join the FARC, motivated not by ideology but because their families couldn’t afford to feed them. Education and employment opportunities will have more impact on the civil conflict and the cocaine trade than more weapons, more military training, and more war.

Video about the agreement

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