A U.S.-Colombian agreement divulged last month is emblematic of what Le Monde Diplomatique correspondent Omar Roberto Rodriguez characterized as a “brutal counteroffensive” against “progressive and democratic governments.” Colombia will allow the United States for 10 years to deploy planes and troops at three air bases and naval vessels at two ports.

Targeting the Venezuelan government, Colombian military forces, intelligence operatives, and paramilitaries serve objectives compatible with U.S. purposes. Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba objected: “Fundamentally, it is very shameful because we are left as some servants of the empire, doing errands, acting as scabs.”

Washington’s supervisory role in the region was on display recently as U.S. officials attempted to quarterback a solution to the military coup in Honduras while attending to Venezuela. State Department spokesperson Philip Crowley proceeded to lecture Honduran President Zelaya on his attachment to the Venezuelan-inspired ALBA alliance and cheap Venezuelan oil. “The current leadership in Venezuela” hardly provides “a model government and a model leader for countries of the region to follow.” That would be “the lesson that President Zelaya has learned from this episode.”

Anti-Venezuelan harassment was evident in exaggerated coverage by the international media of General Accounting Office findings, released July 20, that corruption and security lapses have steered Venezuela into “becoming a narco-state.” Members of Congress picked up the cue that as facilitator of sales of Colombian cocaine to northern consumers, Venezuela is cast as financially backing the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Allegations surfaced as to Venezuelan complicity in Swedish rocket launchers that ended up in FARC hands. The widely-discredited computer files of FARC leader Raul Reyes, killed in Ecuador last year by the Colombian military, supposedly revealed incriminating data. The Colombian vice president and Israeli officials claimed that Hezbollah terrorists were active along the northern sector of the porous Venezuelan-Colombian border.

Venezuelan President Chavez had earlier denounced two border-state separatist governors for ties to Colombian paramilitaries engaged in cross-border destabilization activities. Together with rightwing Caracas mayor Antonio Ledezma, they recently journeyed to Washington where they basked in praise from elected officials, Florida Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen lauding them as “freedom fighters.”

For Venezuela, danger from Washington has a Colombian face. Analyst Allan Greenberg, writing on rebelion.org, maintains that Colombian banks, dummy corporations and couriers customarily transfer National Endowment for Democracy moneys to opposition elements in Venezuela. The project exists as part of “a giant continental operation aimed at containing and reversing processes of social transformation.”

The U.S. Congress recently renewed U.S. support for the Colombian military, to the tune this year of $518 million ― in line with Bush-era appropriations. Anti-insurgency operations took precedence over war on drugs.

The Colombia-U.S. agreement on bases gives U.S forces the green light for counterinsurgency operations. No longer will they be limited to 1,400 soldiers and military contractors. Congress had previously appropriated $46 million for U.S. operations at the Palanquero air base, equipped with a 3,500 meter runway. “Half the continent can be covered from Palanquero by a C-17 military transport without refueling,” according to a Pentagon document. Within the country, U.S. forces will specialize in aerial intelligence-gathering directed at the FARC.

President Chavez lambasted the Colombian government: “You are opening your house to an enemy of your neighbor.” He announced plans militarily to reinforce the border with Colombia and continue Russian arms purchases. The charge that Venezuela supplied arms to the FARC prompted Chavez to withdraw Venezuela’s ambassador from Bogota, block Venezuelan exports to Colombia, and threaten to nationalize Colombian-owned enterprises.

Colombia’s use as an imperial tool extends beyond Latin America. Its cold-war bona fides were evident in its having supplied Latin America’s largest contingent to the Korean War. Now Colombian Special Forces have joined U.S. troops in Afghanistan. That prompted “a top U.S. official” in inform CBS News that ‘The more Afghanistan can look like Colombia, the better.” (He apparently left 4 million internally displaced persons and tens of thousands murdered or disappeared out of the equation.)

For U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield, partnership with Colombia “has been the most successful nation-building exercise that the U.S.A. has associated itself with perhaps over the last 25-30 years.”


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.