Brazil Opposed to U.S. Bases in Colombia
BRASILIA – The top foreign affairs counselor to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva told the U.S. national security adviser on Tuesday that Brazil opposes the prospect of Washington’s stationing military personnel at bases in Colombia.
“I called his attention to the fact that it (Brazil’s objection) is not related to any ideological position,” Marco Aurelio Garcia told reporters after meeting in Brasilia with Gen. James Jones. “That it comes from a government that has good relations with Colombia.”
Garcia met Monday in Caracas with leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has frozen relations with Colombia over the issue of possible U.S. basing rights in the neighboring country.
Without revealing the content of his talks with Chavez, Garcia said he conveyed Venezuela’s position to Jones.
“It’s time for a more diplomatic action, to avoid a media war,” the Brazilian official said.
“The United States’ connection with some countries in South America is very tenuous,” Garcia said, advocating “a consistent dialogue that eliminates secondary questions and focuses on fundamental matters.”
He said Jones assured him the U.S. was seeking bases in Colombia only to facilitate “humanitarian activities” and aid the battle against illegal drugs.
But Garcia seemed unconvinced.
“No matter how many explanations there are,” he said, foreign bases in the region “do not appear to be a factor that contributes to a relaxation” of tensions.
Lula’s aide said that while Brazil would not turn the bases issue into a “point of tension with the United States,” Brasilia hoped to see Washington pursue a new dialogue with Latin America.
“I told him (Jones) that Lula had very good relations with President Bush and that he nourished and nourishes greater expectations in regard to President Barack Obama,” Garcia said.
The official also outlined Brazil’s specific concerns about potential foreign bases in neighboring Colombia.
“I don’t believe sovereignty would be threatened, but I don’t believe that near the border with Amazonia, which is often the object of international avarice, the establishment of bases whose extent and objectives are not very clear, would be positive,” Garcia said.
Asked about Uribe’s current tour of South America – including a stop here – to explain the prospective basing treaty, Garcia said the Colombian president “had the sense to understand that the climate in the region wasn’t good.”
Lula will not try to “dissuade” Uribe from signing the pact with the United States, but will urge the Colombian to consider the prospective deal from a cost-benefit perspective, Garcia said.
Washington, which provides Bogota with $500 million a year in military aid and has hundreds of military advisers and contractors on the ground in the Andean nation, says it needs bases in Colombia to replace the U.S. Forward Operating Location at Ecuador’s Manta airbase.
Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa, declined to renew the treaty that allowed the U.S. military to conduct counternarcotics operations from Manta for the past 10 years.
Chavez, who still suspects Washington of involvement in the abortive April 2002 coup in Venezuela, has sought to rally Latin America against the prospective U.S. bases in Colombia. EFE