The exposure by some of the media of the Uribe government's offer to let the U.S. armed forces have bases in Colombia has uncovered only a part of the reality. This offer to let the Yankee military use the bases has been foreseeable ever since last year's parade of various U.S. representatives who came here, including Admiral Michael Mullen, the Joint Armed Forces Chief of Staff. And it coincides with the interests of the flunky Uribe, who since the eve of the invasion of Iraq in January 2003 has been clamouring for the imperialist war machine to be deployed to South America, especially Colombia. (El Espectador, 16 January 2003) Last year he announced that there was "no obstacle to also accepting an international force if necessary, because our security policies are in total good faith." (BBCMundo.com, 21 January 2008)
Hundreds of Yankee soldiers and agents (called "security contractors" in the media) are prowling the cities and countryside of Colombia, advising the armed forces on how to fight the guerrilla movement, to protect the investments of the imperialist transnational companies, politically and militarily support one of their most faithful flunkies and beef up their presence in the region. Imperialism aimed to shift from the Manta base on the Ecuadorian coast [where the U.S. has just been forced out] to its own base in Tres Esquinas in the Colombian department of Caqueta (prepared since 2000 as part of Plan Colombia), upgrade the base at San Andres (a technical training centre for the Yankee radar system throughout the region) and renovate the Palanquero base.
Last month the U.S. Congress allocated 46 million dollars for this latter facility, key for a better strategic positioning on a global level in the U.S.'s dispute with present or potential rivals to maintain world control. Pentagon plans have been listing Palanquero as a U.S. base for years. Its activities are not to be limited to counter-narcotics operations, and its reach will extend beyond the Andean region. The aim is to establish a base whose "air mobile" reach (with C-17 transport planes) covers the whole South American continent and "achieves two results: to support the implementation of regional combat strategy and support the mobility route toward Africa." ("Global En Route Strategy", a white paper by the U.S. Air Force Air Mobility Command.) Admiral Mullen wasn't just using empty words when he said in January 2008 in Colombia that the relationship between Washington and Bogota is vital both for the region and the world.
Further, Plan Colombia (and its successors, Plan Patriota and Plan Victoria), initially dreamed up for the "war on drugs" and then the "war on terror", are also part of broader plans for regional control, like the Plan Puebla-Panama [a U.S. military plan for Mexico and Central America] and the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure in South America. It is no accident that since last year the Yankee imperialists have been reactivating the IV Naval Fleet designed to ensure the regional military control that such economic plans are based on, plans not only for regional integration but also to integrate the region into the world market.
Clearly the Uribe government is the chief Yankee ally in the region. This is key when one takes into account that fact that in countries such as Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia present or potential rivals may contest U.S. economic and military hegemony. This is the context for the role of Brazil, which is developing an alliance with Russia, China and India that could also include Mexico and Argentina. Since the governments of these countries are not a hundred percent satisfactory from the point of view of U.S. imperialism and its so-called democracy, and are making efforts to slip free of its yoke, the U.S. considers them a threat and fears losing control of its "back yard". The U.S considers that it can arm itself to the teeth but oppressed countries cannot, and so imperialist spokesmen have expressed their concern with the arms build-up in Venezuela and Hugo Chavez's alleged support for the Colombian guerrillas of the FARC, complaining that Chavez may be promoting the long-term "destabilization" of the region.
"The war on drugs" is really a war on the people
When the U.S.'s Colombian vassals Uribe and Padilla de Leon [head of the Colombian armed forces] made their announcements about the bases, other Latin American governments became concerned and many of them expressed disagreement. Imperialist representatives like Secretary of State Hilary Clinton came forward to calm the situation, saying things like "The U.S. does not have and does not seek bases in Colombia", that the bases where they are moving in "are not permanent" and that "command and control of the bases, as well as their security, remain the responsibility of Colombia." The Yankees are lying like they always do when they prepare the terrain for war. When Clinton says they "don't have bases", it's because they already have them; when she says they "are not permanent" it's because the Yankees are already there and intend to remain. The previously mentioned "Global En Route Strategy" is based on the "1995 Mobility Requirements Study – Bottom-Up Review" that in the "adjustments" made in 2000 and 2005 clearly categorized the Palanquero base as key for the "Southern Route" to Africa and from there to the Middle East. White House cynicism about such matters is already legendary. When caught lying about the so-called "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq, a high-level Bush official referred to Winston Churchill's statement that "In wartime, truth is so precious that she must always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
Similarly, the "war on drugs" invented by the Reagan government has nothing to do with stopping drug trafficking. It seeks to strengthen the machinery of repression and control, especially against the youth and oppressed in the U.S. On the international level, the Yankee imperialists use the "war on drugs" to disguise military intervention, more tightly control other countries and further local and regional schemes and plots. U.S. imperialism is oiling up its armed forces and manoeuvring to achieve a better position for the future, whether under the pretext of fighting the drug trade or terrorism (which they define any way they want). They raise either one of these two flags whenever it suits them, to smash uprisings in the Yankee's volatile "back yard". They've sent troops to the Mexican border. In the past, when reliable imperialist flunkies ran Bolivia, they sent C-5 galaxy military transport airplanes with Blackhawk helicopters, Awacs radar aircraft, M-60 machine guns, communications equipment and battlefield mobile kitchens. This was a "model" for the introduction of U.S. troops throughout the world, on a planet criss-crossed with military bases, threatening the countries in the U.S. orbit to make them assume the cost and the military risks.
Many people – even many who think of themselves as progressive democrats, anti-imperialists or "leftists" – see imperialism as an external phenomenon, and not as a production relation internal to the economies of the oppressed countries. And many glorify a narrow nationalism that flies today's national rag, and call on people to defend so-called "national sovereignty". You can't fight the enemy while flying his flag.
Colombia is like all the countries of Latin America in that it is dependent on imperialism. It is a nation oppressed by imperialism, principally U.S. imperialism. It has never been really independent. It was a colony of the Spanish empire, and then a British semi-colony. In the last century it has been a semi-colony of U.S. imperialism, which exercises its domination in the economic, technological, political, military and cultural spheres. Its economic and financial, technological and military dependency mean that there is no reality to its political independence. Economic dependence obviously leads to political dependence.
Imperialism is not some empty and no longer fashionable word. It is an overall system of exploitation and oppression that has maintained itself at the cost of the suffering and exploitation of hundreds of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America and the oppression of the world's people. At its disposal it has its own matchless war machines and the lackey armies of the oppressed nations, and when it considers it necessary it organizes, trains and arms paramilitaries, "Contras", "the Black Hand" and the "Triple A" to do its dirty work [references to various U.S.-led death squads in Latin America]. And today Colombia is to play an important part in its regional plans. Between 1999 and 2007, 47,394 Colombian officers were trained in Yankee schools, while the total for the whole rest of the hemisphere was only 52,221 ("Por debajo del radar", LAWGEF, CIP and WOLA, 2007). Colombia is the largest recipient of U.S. military aid, after Israel and Egypt. At this time the Yankee embassy in Colombia is the world's biggest in terms of the number of posted personnel – more than 2,000! This Plan Colombia and its subsequent modifications is part of the U.S.'s strategic plans for regional and global domination.
Today U.S. imperialism is driven to maintain its markets, control its energy sources, and in the end world domination, and doesn't want anyone to get in its way. This is closely related to its military plans to control and prevent events.
The presence of U.S. bases in Colombia is another step toward turning Colombia from a neo-colony to almost a colony of U.S. imperialism. Dark clouds are gathering on our country's horizon. After the dark night marked by the massacres committed by the paramilitaries, the crimes of the state and mix of fascist dictatorship and feudal landlord despotism that has held on to power for seven years, now we face even worse – an escalation in the intervention by those who have already brought the peoples of the world so much suffering.
But oppression gives rise to resistance, and as long as there are revolutionary men and women who struggle militantly to raise the people's consciousness and to generate a real and combative anti-imperialist movement and raise it to the level of revolution, there will be the perspective of something really new. Today we must forge this great combative anti-imperialist unity to lay the foundation for being able to drive the imperialists and all their flunkies out of Colombia and the whole region with the aim of unleashing a strong resistance movement of the world's peoples and to raise its level so that it can make imperialism bite the dust of defeat.