ON DECEMBER 18, the Colombian government announced the construction of a new military base on its border with Venezuela. Colombia’s Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said that the base, located on the Guajira peninsula near the city of Nazaret, would have up to 1,000 troops. “It is a strategic point from a defense point of view,” Silva said. Colombian Army Commander General Oscar Gonzalez meanwhile announced December 19 that six air new battalions were being activated, including two on the border with Venezuela. The new airborne battalions, are mainly equipped with U.S.-made Blackhawk helicopters.
The announcement comes in the context of a agreement signed between Colombian and the U.S. on October 30 which gives the U.S. military seven bases in Colombia. The Colombian government claims the agreement is merely to provide it assistance with drug interdiction operations. However, in the broader context of U.S. interference in Latin America and the Caribbean, the agreement is seen as hostile act on behalf a foreign power against the peoples of the region striving to oppose U.S. imperialism and take an independent path. Since plans for the agreement were announced at the end of June, the Colombian government has been denounced in various regional fora for creating a situation where the outbreak of war has now become a real possibility, including causing serious tension between Colombia and Venezuela, the latter of which has been the target of an increasingly hostile U.S. policy. Consequently, Venezuela suspended diplomatic and trade relations with Colombia in July and has also taken measures to increase its defensive capabilities.
Silva, in a December 20 interview with El Tiempo, made self-serving comments in which he tried to turn the situation on its head and cover up his government’s sell-out of Colombian sovereignty and provocations against neighbouring countries. He claimed the new base and the activation of the airborne battalions are necessary because Colombia is facing a foreign military threat. He did not directly mention Venezuela in the interview, but stated, “In Colombia we have concentrated on the internal threat. But the risk is growing because what has been clearly and directly presented, is an eventual action against Colombia from outside,” Silva told the newspaper.
It should be noted that in March 2008, this “internal threat” provided the pretext for the Colombian military to cross over into Ecuadoran territory to carry out an assassination of a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) which lead to serious diplomatic tension in the region and defensive build-ups by Ecuador and Venezuela along their borders with Colombia.
(BBC, Agence France Presse)