U.S.-Colombia Military Base Deal to Be Reviewed by Constitutional Court

U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield discussed the U.S.-Colombia Military Cooperation Agreement at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in December. Photo by Roque Planas.
U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield discussed the U.S.-Colombia Military Cooperation Agreement at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in December. Photo by Roque Planas.

U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield discussed the U.S.-Colombia Military Cooperation Agreement at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in December. Photo by Roque Planas.
U.S. Ambassador to Colombia William Brownfield discussed the U.S.-Colombia Military Cooperation Agreement at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in December. Photo by Roque Planas.

Today in Latin America

Top Story — Colombia’s Constitutional Court will review a deal to allow U.S. military personnel greater access to seven military bases located throughout the country, according to Colombian daily El Tiempo.

The agreement was authorized by the Uribe administration last October and the U.S. expects it to take effect in May, but the Court says that Congress may have to approve it. It is illegal under the Colombian Constitution to allow foreign soldiers into the country without congressional approval (Article 173). The Álvaro Uribe administration has said that the agreement with the U.S. was not a new one, but rather an extension of an existing, decades-old military pact and, consequently, should not require separate scrutiny.

Margarita Carreño, a Colombian official, also said that the provision allowing legal immunity to U.S. personnel in Colombia should be revised.

The decision to review the legality of the U.S.-Colombia base deal comes just a week after Colombia’s Constitutional Court invalidated a controversial referendum project that would have allowed President Uribe to run for a third consecutive term. The referendum was also questioned on technical rather than substantive grounds.

U.S. government has provided almost $7 billion in military and other aid since 2000 as part of the anti-insurgency and anti-drug trafficking operation called Plan Colombia, according to the a report issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies last year.

New reporting from the Latin America News Dispatch — Falkland Islands Oil Dispute Raises Old Issues and New Problems, by Joel Richards.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • Mexico’s Roman Catholic Church criticized Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard Sunday on a variety of issues, including legalized abortion and same-sex marriages.
  • Police in the northern Mexican city of San Nicolás de los Garza protested over the killing of three officers in an ambush.
  • The Mexico City police department announced Sunday that it plans to offer a lower-calorie menu in cafeterias, as three-quarters of the department’s officers are overweight.

Caribbean

  • The Cuban-Spanish company Habanos, S.A. has launched a cigar called the “Julieta,” which is specifically marketed to women.
  • U.S. soldiers are withdrawing from Haiti after landing in the country in the wake of the January 12 earthquake, leaving security in the hands of U.N. peacekeeping force and the Haitian police.

Central America

  • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ended her five-day tour of Latin America Friday in Guatemala, promising to aid the region in combatting drug-trafficking and urged leaders to recognize the newly-elected administration of Porfirio Lobo in Honduras.
  • Ousted former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya plans to write a book about the coup that removed him from office last June.
  • Costa Rican President-elect Laura Chinchilla announced last Thursday that Costa Rica wants to collaborate in space technology.
  • Poverty in Nicaragua has forced the poor to scavenge through the debris left over from the 1972 earthquake for scrap metal.
  • Panama-based airline Copa Holding, S.A. plans for a increase in passengers as the global economy recovers.

Andes

  • The Venezuelan Foreign Minister said Sunday that the country wants to repair relations with neighboring Colombia, but that won’t be possible until a successor is elected for current President Álvaro Uribe.
  • Spain and Venezuela said in a joint statement Saturday that the South American nation denied any links with the Basque-separatist group, ETA.
  • Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with Ecuador’s Vice-President Saturday to discuss Ecuador stances in supporting Iran’s nuclear program.

Southern Cone

  • The Argentine film “The Secret in Their Eyes” won the best foreign film award at the Oscars Sunday.
  • Looters in the earthquake-ravaged city of Concepción, Chile left looted goods on the roadside to avoid arrest after Chilean authorities announced home raids to recover stolen goods.
  • A Brazilian futsal player died Sunday after a piece of the court’s wooden floor came off and struck him in the abdomen.

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