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Latin America and military conflicts

Marcelo Rech

In 2008, the tensions between Colombia and Venezuela contributed to the creation, in the region, of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and, within it, the Council of South American Defense (CDS). Such mechanisms put end to the Colombian-Venezuelan tensions and maintained the focus on the deepening of the military relations with the generation of confidence.

In parallel, South America is consolidating as a peace zone, something that, indirectly, had its part of contribution so that the peace process in Colombia was finally triggered. It is the oldest internal conflict of the world and there are no doubts that it should be already over decades ago.

However, the region is not free of problems that can set it in warlike conflicts. Drug trafficking, contraband, human trafficking and of weapons, and so on: there is a corollary of problems inherent to all countries of the region.

When Álvaro Uribe was the Colombian president, the United States made an agreement – the Plan Colombia – that applied millions of dollars in the South American country. Everything to put an end, by military ends, to the guerrillas of FARC and ELN.

In fact, the Plan Colombia was responsible for the main blows stroke against these narco-terrorist organizations. It was during the mandate of Uribe that the FARC staggered.

Presently, this support is much smaller, though the alliance between Bogota and Washington is maintained in the highest level. In December, John Kerry went to the Casa de Nariño to hear from President Juan Manuel Santos and from his negotiators about the advances in the peace dialog carried out in Havana.

The United States do not ignore what goes on in the region, though they give to it a treatment very distant from the minimum necessary, inclusive regarding the respect to the sovereignty of the nations.

Similarly, it is not news that the North American military presence in the region is something forceful and becomes a real threat to the involvement of the South American countries in extra-regional conflicts. The alignment with the United States charges a high price.

The most recent example in the hemisphere concerns Canada, which saw itself a victim of attacks of Islamic State extremists.

The North American military presence in South America needs to be put under the light of facts and not of speculations. This presence is real, and accepted by several of the countries. In the past, were born from there the coups that took down legitimately elected governments.

A case closer to this reality would be that of Venezuela. The tensions between both countries have been raising and it is not a secret that Washington supports the opposition against the chavista regime.

This presence might suggest the violation of the sovereignty of these countries, but that is questionable, since there is relative acceptance of this role played by the United States. I remember when Ecuador decided to cancel the agreement for the use of the Military Air Base of Manta by the North Americans.

There were not a few Latin-American countries that volunteered to receive new North American military bases.

Obviously, this presence aggregates the CIA, as soon as any military objective keeps a political purpose. Sot that such objectives are achieved, it is worth inventing arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, espionage in industrial scale and explicit interference in third-party internal affairs.

Besides, they act to contaminate relations like those that concern the interests of the European Union, of Russia and of China, for example.

Marcelo Rech is a journalist, specialist in International Relations; Strategies and Policies of Defense; Terrorism and Counterinsurgency; Human Rights in the Armed Conflicts; and director of the Instituto InfoRel de Relações Internacionais e Defesa. E-mail:


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