The hot debate in Latin America right now is the latest plans by Colombia to allow USA military access to a number of bases throughout Colombia. Obviously the biggest objectors are the leftist leaders in the region, primarily Chavez of Venezuela, and the leaders of Bolivia and Ecuador...all direct and surrounding neighbors of Colombia. Even more centrist governments like Brazil and Chile are expressing their concern and this will be the hot topic in today's South American UNASUR group of nations meeting.
According to THIS ARTICLE from Reuters, the plan says the
"United States is allowed up to 800 uniformed military personnel in Colombia at one time. Those soldiers help plan counter-insurgency missions but they are not allowed in combat, a rule that will not change under the new military accord. There are currently less than 300 uniformed Americans in Colombia and the expanded deal will not push that number above the limit of 800, according to the U.S. embassy in Bogota."
While that seems like a very small increase from the status quo, it obviously has a lot of people riled up. The main problem is that the USA has lost a lot of credibility in Latin America. For the past 20-30 years our policy has been all over the board in this region and our government along with the CIA has been involved in a number of clandestine efforts that has many countries not trusting the USA as a partner or protector.
I have a number of mixed reactions and points to make on this subject.
It is understandable that Colombia would hold suspect the criticisms and "saber rattling" of their immediate leftist neighbors, Venezuela and Ecuador. Both countries have apparently supported the FARC guerrillas at various times and ways by either sheltering them over the border or funneling arms and intelligence to them. There are recent videos captured from the FARC showing the current leader discussing their actual monetary support of the Ecuadorian presidents campaign for election. So, it would seem quite justified for the Colombians to "flip off" these un neighborly actions and protect their interests with any military power and influence they can get.
My main concerns come from the intent of my own country, the USA. Our country has been spending over 3 BILLION per year in the "war against drugs" in Colombia...and while eradication has increased while supplies decreased significantly in Colombia...the supply and demand in the USA has not been affected AT ALL. I call this a waste of money and LOSING the supposed war on drugs we have been fighting for over 30 years. Now it has advanced significantly in the bigger and less controllable country of Mexico...closer to our borders. In my opinion, Colombia and South America overall is the least of America's concerns when it comes to controlling drugs in America.
Other factors that can obviously come into play in this increased militarization in Colombia is the USA's desire to promote and protect "democracy" and compete against Russian and Chinese influences in these countries. Much of our USA policy goes back to the "Monroe Doctrine" and then expanded upon by Teddy Roosevelt's "Corollary" to that doctrine that "asserted the right of the United States to intervene to stabilize the economic affairs of small states in the Caribbean and Central America if they were unable to pay their international debts. Presidents cited the Roosevelt Corollary as justification for U.S. intervention in Cuba (1906-1910), Nicaragua (1909-1911, 1912-1925 and 1926-1933), Haiti (1915-1934), and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924)."
I admire many aspects of Teddy Roosevelt, but this is one area of his foreign policy that in light of history I believe took the USA government on a negative turn towards global imperialism in the 20th century. I believe the current economic and political plight of America has been caused by this over extension of our power and trying to police the world. Just like Rome and the British Empire of only 200 years ago...the USA stands the risk of bankrupting their system and imploding from within because of these attempts to control all external governments and cultures of the world. We have done a good job of marketing our consumerism to most of the world through this influence and access...yet much of the world continues to repel America's version of capitalism, culture and lifestyle.
For me this reflects directly on what the USA is doing in and through Colombia. We are flexing our military strength and exporting our technology to a foreign country in order to force our "interests" in the region. The problem for me on this issue is not only philosophical, but practical. How many regions and countries can America really dominate in this fashion simultaneously? They are talking about large increases for Afghanistan and the fight against the Taliban. We still have huge resources sucking us dry in Iraq and the story is still out whether we have truly succeeded in our mission there after spending up to 1 TRILLION dollars and 4330 confirmed American lives. The main question for me is "have we truly affected change in that culture and region"? If not, what a terrible price to pay.
The last thing we need in my opinion is escalation of militarization in Latin America. While Costa Rica and even Panama have de-militarized, the arms race...primarily manufactured and distributed by the USA...is on full tilt throughout the Latin American region. Venezuela is countering by purchasing significant armaments from Russia. In that scenario, I understand Colombia's need for significant backup by the USA. Yet, one has to wonder who started the escalation first? And while much of it has been under the guise of "controlling drugs and drug lords", America has been losing that war for a long time now. Is the USA really ready for escalation and the costs associated in Latin America as well? I don't believe so.
I am all for supporting Colombia and other friendly neighbors against invasions and infiltrators from dark regimes. Yet, I think it best to train and equip locals to fight their own battles versus the continued shedding of American blood on every shore of the world. America has a big enough job on its hands just cleaning up the blood on the streets in all its own major cities and rebuilding its economic engine. We need to stop exporting guns...and start exporting goods to the regions and propagating economic trade. This is the best approach to achieving world peace and prosperity.