US military pact with Colombia dealt setback

The US military pact with Colombia faces an uncertain future following a ruling of the Andean nation’s Constitutional Court last month. On Aug. 17, in a case brought by opposition politicians, the court sent the agreement back to President Juan Manuel Santos to seek congressional approval for the pact. The government of Santos, who took power 10 days earlier, has a majority in the country’s congress. (Reuters, Aug. 17)

In the case, the opposition invoked Article 173 of Colombia’s constitution, under which Congress must authorize the presence of foreign troops in the country. The government of former President Álvaro Uribe argued that it was a “simplified agreement” based on a 1974 military treaty with the US, and thus did not require congressional approval. But opposition politician Carlos Gaviria, a former Constitutional Court magistrate, argued that it could not be considered a “corollary” to a broader treaty, but was a treaty in its own right. (IPS, Aug. 19)

The US has taken pains to address popular opposition to the deal in the region. In July, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen said that US access to seven Colombian military bases would not affect other countries in the region, and that the military presence is crucial in the fight against drug trafficking and terrorism. That same week, Washington’s ambassador to Colombia, William Brownfield, said the deal will not increase the number of US military personnel present in the nation. Brownfield said that Colombia “will not be seeing more personnel from the United States, on the contrary we will see less.” He added, however, that the two countries would “maintain the same mechanisms of collaboration.” (Colombia Reports, July 23)

See our last post on Colombia.

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