Pentagon quietly builds up South American bases
By Teresa Gutierrez
Published Feb 19, 2006 8:07 PM
 http://www.workers.org/2006/world/pentagon-0223/

At the very same time that the working class and progressive movement in Latin America is rapidly shifting to the left, invigorating anti-imperialist sentiment around the world, Washington is quietly and ominously militarizing the Americas.

From the U.S./Mexican border to many parts farther south, U.S. imperialism is setting up more and more military bases throughout the region and stealthily sending ever more U.S. troops and mercenaries to Latin America.

Under the guise of fighting the so-called drug war or seeking “Al Qaeda terrorist cells,” Washington’s real intention is to prepare to overcome the rising movements against U.S. imperialism that are sweeping the region.

Washington’s intense escalation of military force is extremely dangerous for the oppressed people of the Americas and should be energetically fought by the anti-war movement in the United States.

As Conn Hallinan wrote last November in Foreign Policy in Focus, “Indeed, it is feeling a little like the run-up to the sixties and seventies, when Washington-sponsored military dictatorships dominated most of the continent, and (secret) armies ruled the night.”

The growing U.S. military threat

Although it only recently came to light, last year the Bush administration sent 400-500 U.S. troops to Paraguay, alarming many Latin Americans.

This action takes place within the context of a growing number of U.S. military bases built in the region in the last several years, and within the context of Plan Colombia, a $3-billion-plus military initiative for Colombia, was passed under the Clinton Administration. Plan Colombia is the military wing of the stalled Free Trade Agreement of the Americas (FTAA).

What cannot be wrested from the people of Latin America by its operators in three-piece suits, Washington clearly aims to steal through its agents in military fatigues.

There are approximately 25 known U.S. military bases or land-based radar stations in Latin America and the Caribbean. These include military bases in Guanta namo, Cuba; Comalapa, El Salvador; Reina Bea triz, Aruba; Fort Buchanan and Roose velt Roads, Puerto Rico; Hato Rey, Curacao; Manta, Ecuador and Soto Cano, Honduras.

In January 2006, Cuban Radio Havana revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had authorized the expansion of U.S. military bases in the summer of 2005. These expanded military bases were called CSL’s—Cooperative Security Locations —and set up at the Mariscal Estigarribia airbase in Paraguay and elsewhere.

According to Radio Havana, these bases, while staffed by a relatively small number of troops, “have the capability to ramp up military operations at short notice.”

Developments in Paraguay are alarming progressives across that country’s borders in Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, where Indigenous peasant leader Evo Morales recently took office as president.

According to an article in the January Political Affairs, the Bush administration in December 2004 canceled $330 million in aid to several South American countries because they had refused to grant U.S. soldiers immunity from prosecution for crimes committed in those countries.

Paraguay did sign the immunity agreement in a secret session of its congress on May 26, 2005, authorizing an 18-month stay for U.S. soldiers, which can be extended repeatedly.

The U.S. troops that arrived in Paraguay last July 1 are only 120 miles from Bolivia at a base near Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay.

The base has a runway long enough to accommodate large military transport planes such as B-52 bombers and Galaxy C-5 cargo planes. It also has barracks space for 16,000 troops, a huge radar system and vast hangers.

Prominent Paraguayan journalist and human rights activist Alfredo Boccia Paz stated recently that “immunity from prosecution for U.S. soldiers, extension of their stay, and joint military exercises all provide the groundwork for the eventual installation of a U.S. base in Paraguay.”

Furthermore, last July a high-powered meeting of Bush administration officials met with Paraguay’s vice president.

Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Noriega met with Paraguay Vice President Luis Castiglioni and concluded that “experts would soon be going to Paraguay to develop a planning seminar on systems for national security.”

The FBI also announced that in 2006 it would open an office in Paraguay.

The U.S. troops stationed in Paraguay are already up to no good. The Southern Command, according to several sources including Radio Havana, announced an upcoming “saber rattling” military exercise to take place in Paraguay called “Fuerzas Comando 06 (Operation Commando Force 06).”

Stan Goff, a former sergeant in the U.S. Special Forces, often points out in his denunciations of U.S. intervention that it can be misleading to judge the impact of a U.S. intervention only by the number of U.S. troops involved. If these troops are Special Forces, for example, they can train local mercenaries or pave the way for thousands of ground troops.

Bush administration officials deny that Mariscal Estigarribia will become or is a U.S. military base.

Manta, Ecuador

In 2001, the Pentagon came under criticism for opening a military base in Manta, Ecuador. The base is located 20 minutes from war-torn Colombia’s borders. Those in Colombia who resist neocolonial domination there consider the base opening an act of war. Many U.S. Congress members also opposed Manta and tried to block the Manta project.

The first thing the base in Manta housed was E-3 AWACS surveillance planes. According to the Washington Post (Jan. 25, 2001), with the troops and the planes, “Manta will become the main hub for U.S. surveillance flights over the vast cocaine-producing areas of Latin America.”

The U.S. pays no rent at Manta. It signed the deal with a former Ecuadorian president, Jamil Mahuad, who fled to exile in the U.S. and was under indictment for abuse of power.

One year before Ecuador opened the Manta base it adopted the U.S. dollar as the national currency.

A rose is a rose

In the usual Pentagon and Washington double talk, government officials have taken to doctoring up the language of the militarization of Latin America to make it palatable for the U.S. public.

In the case of both Manta, Ecuador, in 2001 and Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay now, government officials called the bases “Forward Operating Locations” or “Cooperative Security Locations” to avoid calling them bases.

Washington has mislabeled the militarization of Latin America as part of the fight against drugs, just as some of the media have mislabeled the Minutemen militarizing the U.S.-Mexican border as freedom fighters.

In reality, the strengthening of military bases and the sending of U.S. troops is aimed to subvert the rising revolutionary movements in Latin America. It is aimed against Presidents Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Evo Morales in Bolivia and at Fidel Castro in Cuba.

But the tide for an end to colonial and imperialist domination has turned in favor of the oppressed and no military base can turn it back.

This article is copyright under a Creative Commons License.
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