Even given the charged history of U.S. interventions in Latin and South America, I admit to having been a bit perplexed by how widespread and concerted the regional opposition to the U.S.-Colombia base agreements has been. The deal involves U.S. forces using parts of Colombian bases, not constructing new ones. And the idea that U.S. forces would be involved in a cross-border aggression in South America seems a bit outdated, more the stuff of wild, anti-Yankee propaganda than a realistic forecast of what the bases will be used for.
So when I received an e-mail from the Venezuelan Embassy with a link to this new report (.pdf) explaining Venezuela’s opposition to the bases, I clicked through and gave it a read. And I have to say, given the history of the past eight years, both in terms of American and Colombian national security policy, the misgivings it expresses are understandable. Granted, Venezuela is not spotless in terms of its involvement as part of the problems, rather than part of the solutions. But the problems the document outlines are real, and the case for the U.S.-Colombia base agreement exacerbating — rather than solving — them is compelling.
This seems like another area where the U.S. could really turn crisis into opportunity. I’m not sure if we were invited to the UNASUR summit to discuss the issue, but President Barack Obama should definitely try to follow up with the proposed sideline meeting at the U.N. The U.S. should be looking for ways to engage multilaterally on this, as part of and in front of a regional approach, rather than bilaterally, in opposition to a regional approach.