Pentagon quietly builds up South American bases
Published Feb 19, 2006 8:07 PM
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.
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
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.”
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
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
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
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,
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
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
Furthermore, last July a high-powered meeting of Bush
administration officials met with Paraguay’s vice president.
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.”
FBI also announced that in 2006 it would open an office in Paraguay.
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.
officials deny that Mariscal Estigarribia will become or is a U.S. military
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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