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US military presence in Colombia is not new, but the possibility of it increasing due to an eventual military intervention in Venezuela, would bring serious consequences
The statement of "5,000 troops to Colombia" made in the notebook of the security adviser of President Donald Trump, John Bolton, generated a worldwide controversy and gave rise to speculation, because in a possible military intervention of the United States in Venezuela, Colombia could dispose of its territory and help that country to execute said operation.
Leer en español: Colombia: las repercusiones de la presencia militar estadounidense
However, even without the United States making a military intervention in Venezuela, the US military presence in Colombia has been taking place for approximately two decades. This presence occurred since the governments of both countries established the famous Plan Colombia, a cooperation agreement between the two nations, whose objective is to fight against drug trafficking and fight the guerrilla groups that at that time remained active in the South American country.
For this, the United States contributed hundreds of billions of dollars for the technical, military, logistical, and technological strengthening of the Colombian military forces, through different strategies, among which was the presence of US military and contractors.
Plan Colombia began to take shape in 1998, when the former president of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana (1998-2002), proposed to the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton (1993-2001), the implementation of that cooperation agreement, which was born in 1999. This Plan was approved by the US Congress in 2000 and was finally implemented in 2001, coinciding with the start of the government of George W. Bush (2001-2009).
Progressive presence with negative consequences
Within the framework of Plan Colombia, the presence of US military personnel in Colombian territory and Colombian military installations has been progressive. This presence has been seen, for example, in cooperation work, training of Colombian troops, and even execution of tasks and military operations. Semana magazine notes that the presence of US military in Colombia is regulated by agreements signed by the two countries (such as Plan Colombia) and that these must be approved by both congresses.
According to the above, Semana quotes Sebastián Bitar, professor at the Government School of the University of Los Andes and author of the book 'The Military Presence of the United States in Latin America: Bases and Quasibases', published in 2017, who explains that, in effect, this military collaboration of the United States has been framed within Plan Colombia. This means that the military and contractors of the United States are in the country due to the anti-drug fight. Bitar says that if they came in the context of a war with Venezuela - as it is presumed could happen now - a new agreement would have to be negotiated between the two nations.
"Those agreements are the ones that set limits. When they started, around the year 2000, 500 soldiers and 300 gringo civilian contractors were allowed in the country. Then the proportion varied to 400 military and 400 contractors. In 2004, at the height of Plan Colombia, it passed to 800 soldiers and 600 contractors, figures that were maintained for the following years. However, that is the top, does not mean that represents the real presence, because this is usually less than established", explained Professor Bitar.
Along with the progressive presence of the US military, it is important to remember that, in 2009, the government of Álvaro Uribe agreed with the United States to allow the arrival of military personnel from that country to seven Colombian military bases:
- Malaga Bay
That agreement did not succeed because the Constitutional Court of Colombia urged the government to process it before the congress, but that step was not taken by a subsequent decision of the government of Juan Manuel Santos. However, the US military presence in Colombia continued -justly- with the joint training and technological and economic cooperation contemplated in Plan Colombia.
Hence, there were other repercussions, such as the sexual abuse of 53 Colombian minors, by US soldiers and contractors, who, in addition to abusing them, recorded their acts and sold the recordings as pornographic material, as evidenced by the document entitled: Colombia in the imperialist geopolitics, carried out by the professor and researcher of the National Pedagogical University, Renán Vega, included in the Report of the Historical Commission of the Conflict and its Victims.
The document describes in detail the abuses suffered by Colombian girls between 2003 and 2007, which were committed in the municipalities of Melgar (Tolima) and Girardot (Cundinamarca), very close to the military base of Tolemaida, where there was a presence of US military, even without the agreement reached between the government of Álvaro Uribe and the United States government, but in full execution of Plan Colombia.
Also read: Venezuela: A smokescreen in Latin America
Against the military presence of the United States in Colombia
Although Colombia and the United States have denied any possibility of sending new troops to Colombia to support a military intervention in Venezuela, several Colombian figures, including congressmen, journalists and analysts and researchers, have expressed their outright rejection of that possibility and demanded explanations to President Iván Duque.
The Democratic Pole senator, Iván Cepeda
Quienes ven con entusiasmo e incluso esperanza la llegada de tropas estadounidenses a nuestro territorio para iniciar la guerra trasnacional, encarnan uno de los peores males de nuestra nacionalidad: la ausencia de dignidad propia.— Iván Cepeda Castro (@IvanCepedaCast) 30 de enero de 2019
The journalist Yamit Palacio
Que la visita del jefe del comando sur es rutinaria. Que el movimiento de tanques en la frontera es rutinario. Que un halcón deje entrever posibles traslados de tropa es rutinario. Les creo. Para algunos -aquí y allá- la guerra y la abyección a designios imperiales es rutina.— Yamit Palacio (@YamitPalaVilla) 30 de enero de 2019
The senator of the Green Alliance, Antonio Sanguino
Pertinente recordarle a Presidente @IvanDuque y canciller @CarlosHolmesTru : artículo 173 Constitución Nal “Son atribuciones del Senado: Num 4. Permitir el tránsito d tropas extranjeras por el territorio d la República”— Antonio Sanguino Senador (@AntonioSanguino) 30 de enero de 2019
The researcher and director of the Peace and Reconciliation Foundation, León Valencia
Si el gobierno colombiano reconoce a Guaidó presidente de Venezuela como lo ha hecho, es un simple alarde diplomático con consecuencias negativas para nuestro país, si EEUU hace lo mismo tiene que actuar en consecuencia, nos acercamos a una intervención militar es así de triste— León Valencia (@LeonVaLenciaA) 23 de enero de 2019
The antecedents and the evidences show the repercussions that the US military presence in Colombia has had, so that if the intention to send 5,000 additional troops was to be true, the consequences would be as negative, and even worse than those that have already left that military presence.
LatinAmerican Post | Samuel Augusto Gallego Suárez
Translated from "Colombia: las repercusiones de la presencia milirar estadounidense"