Wednesday, August 18, 2010

No more 'bases gringas'?

After the U.S. handed over the Panama Canal , the Panamanians also kicked out the U.S. military base there. Washington looked around, and finally rented a space on the Ecuadorian air force base at Manta to use for what it said were solely anti-drug flights. But then Ecuador elected leftist Pres. Rafael Correa, and he ended the U.S.'s rights to use the Manta air base. So, Washington looked east and found Colombia, with which it signed an agreement giving the US's military landing rights on seven Colombian military bases.

The US-Colombia agreement generated lots of
controversy, especially among leftists, who denounced the arrangement as 'US bases' and an example of US imperialism. Venezuelan Pres. Hugo Chavez suggested that the US and Colombia would spy on his country and were even preparing to invade Venezuela.

Yesterday, Colombia's high court ruled that the agreement was invalid because it had not been approved by Colombia's Congress. That appears unlikely to happen, unless Colombian Pres. Juan Manuel Santos is willing to rile up the Venezuelan government.

What's the lesson in this? First of all, the US doesn't look like much of an imperialistic power - not when tiny nations like Panama and Ecuador have evicted US soldiers without firing a shot.

And the decision shows once again that Colombia is a democracy with an independent court system - with a backbone.

At the same time, the US should find a lesson in this: Its war on drugs is unpopular in Latin America, where it is widely seen as an imposition. What's more, despite billions of dollars spent and many thousands of deaths, the war has produced little progress against the drug trade.

Perhaps a change of strategy is in order.

This blog written by Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours.

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