Foreign Policy Blogs

Chavez and Clinton Speak Out: Does the US-Colombian Military Accord Signal "War"?

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela continues to criticize the recent agreement allowing access by a limited number of United States military forces and contractors to Colombian military bases. The accord, signed last Friday, enables the US to support anti-narcotics operations, and to replace its previous base at Manta, Ecuador.

Chávez has used particularly strong language against US presence in a neighboring country, stating that Venezuela is “ready for war”.

Yesterday US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jaime Bermúdez, held a press conference to explain their perspectives. Clinton reaffirmed the US government’s stance that the agreement was bilateral and does not pose a threat to other nations in the region.

The United States is focused on reducing the amount of cocaine produced in Colombia and shipped northwards. It also considers the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to be a terrorist organization heavily involved in the drug trade. The US effort serves as part of its global “war on terror”, a phrase heavily used by the Bush Administration. (The terminology now used by the Defense Department under President Barack Obama is “Overseas Contingency Operation”.)

Chávez, while incorrectly accusing the United States and Colombia of plotting military action against his own country, is actually right in stating that the US troops are involved in warlike efforts in the region.

The FARC has opposed the Colombian government for more than forty years, causing an internal armed conflict costing thousands of lives and displacing millions of people. Ongoing action by the United States to fight against the FARC, even if only providing advice and sharing intelligence information, means that it is involved in an armed struggle.

The American public may place greater focus on the country’s extensive war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it might also be worth noting that US troops are, albeit peripherally, participating in an armed conflict within the Western Hemisphere.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.