[News] Latin America Conference against Militarization Says No to US Bases

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Oct 17 19:02:42 EDT 2008

Hemispheric Conference against Militarization 
Says No to Merida Initiative, U.S. Military Bases

Laura Carlsen | October 17, 2008

More than 800 representatives from organizations 
throughout the Americas made their way to the 
northern city of La Esperanza, Honduras to take a 
strong stand against the militarization of their 
nations and communities. Following three days of 
workshops, the participants read their final 
declaration in front of the gates of the U.S. 
Army Base at Palmerola, Honduras, just hours from 
site. The first demand on the list was to close 
down this and all U.S. military bases in Latin 
America and the Caribbean. By the end of the 
demonstration, the walls of the base sported 
hundreds of spray-painted messages and demands 
that contrasted sharply with their prison-like austerity.

Palmerola, formally called the Soto Cano Air 
Base, brought back some very bad memories among 
the hundreds of Central American participants. 
The U.S. government installed the base in 1981 
and used it to launch the illegal contra 
operations against the Nicaraguan government. The 
base was also used to airlift support to 
in Guatemala and El Salvador and 
U.S. forces in counterinsurgency techniques 
during the dirty wars that left over 100,000 
dead, and is now used as a base for the U.S.-sponsored "war on drugs."

The demilitarization conference also called for 
an immediate halt to the recently launched 
Initiative," the Bush administration's new Trojan 
horse for remilitarization of the region. The 
resolution asserts that the measure "expands U.S. 
military intervention and contributes to the 
militarization of our countries" and 
representatives from the Central American nations 
and Mexico included in the military aid package 
committed to a process of monitoring the funds 
and defeating further appropriations.

The Merida Initiative was 
by President Bush as a "counter-narcotics, 
counter-terrorism, and border security" 
cooperation initiative in October 2007. The model 
extends the Bush administration's infamous 
national security strategy of 2002 to impose it 
as the U.S.-led security model for the 
hemisphere. The approach relies on huge defense 
contracts to U.S. corporations, and military and 
police deployment to deal with issues ranging 
from drug trafficking to illegal immigration and 
seeks to extend U.S. military hegemony in foreign 
lands. It has been 
in Colombia and other areas where it has been 
applied to have the effect of increasing 
violence, failing to decrease drug flows, and 
leading to extensive human rights violations.

Among the 14 resolutions of the conference, three 
others reject aspects of the Initiative: the 
repeal of anti-terrorist laws that criminalize 
social protest and are a direct result of U.S. 
pressure to impose the disastrous Bush 
counter-terrorism paradigm; the demand to replace 
the militarized "war on drugs" model with 
measures of citizen participation, community 
heath, etc.; and the demand for full respect for the rights of migrants.

Although on the surface, Latin America is 
experiencing a period of relative calm after the 
brutality of the military dictatorships and the 
dirty wars, grassroots movement leaders from all 
over the continent described a context of 
increasing aggression. The indigenous and farm 
organizations that occupy territories coveted by 
transnational corporations have become targets of 
forced displacement. Social movements that 
protest privatization and free trade agreements 
have been dubbed terrorists and attacked and 
imprisoned under new anti-terrorist laws that are 
a poor legal facade for outright repression. The 
use of the military troops in counter-narcotic 
activities has become commonplace and often hides 
other agendas of the powerful. Police forces have 
come to deal with youth as if being young itself were a crime.

In viewing the threats of militarization in their 
societies, participants use a broader definition 
than just the presence of army bases and troops. 
"Militarism," states the Campaign for 
Demilitarization of the Americas, is " the daily 
presence of the military logic in our society, in 
our economic forms, in our social links, and in 
the logic of gender domination and the supposed 
natural superiority of men over women." Using 
this concept, the conference covered the profound 
need to change the educational system and social 
norms, to work from within communities, as well 
as making demands for changes in the external conditions that affect them.

Despite days of testimonies that sometimes 
included tears and anger, delegates to the 
conference expressed hope above all else. 
Ecuador's new constitution and decision to kick 
out the U.S. army base at Manta was cited as proof of progress.

Both concrete plans for action and an encouraging 
consensus emerged: the breadth of the challenge 
can be overwhelming but the dream of lasting 
peace provides an irresistible light at the end of the tunnel.

The declaration concludes on this note: "... 
through these campaigns and actions on the 
grassroots level, organized within each nation 
and throughout the continent, we can reach a day 
not long from now when we fulfill the dream of 
living free of violence, exclusion, and war."

Final Declaration of the La Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras, October 3-6, 2008

 From Oct. 3-6 the II Hemispheric Conference 
Against Militarization took place in La 
Esperanza, Intibucá, Honduras. Over 800 delegates 
from social movements met. We represented 175 
organizations from 27 countries, as well as Original Peoples of Indoamerica.1

As the capitalist system enters perhaps its worst 
crisis in history, the world faces crises on many 
fronts: financial, energy, food, environmental, 
social, and political. Militarization has 
increased and its effects become more violent in 
an attempt of the system to control spaces and markets and natural resources.

In our hemisphere, militarization takes many 
forms. In the broad sense, military, 
institutional, and police violence are part of a 
continuous escalation of repression, occupation, 
and looting of natural resources that accompanies 
the neoliberal economic model.

Social movements have responded by fighting for 
our rights, lands, and territories. Diverse 
networks and organizations of the continent have 
come together again in a strategic and urgent 
effort with a common purpose to define lines of 
action that allow us to advance in a more 
coordinated and effective way before the 
continental and global threats presented by 
militarization, wars, and repression.

    * That militarization is the main factor in 
the violation of fundamental human rights, such 
as the right to housing, health, education, etc., 
and especially of the general and particular 
rights of indigenous and black peoples;
    * That militarization leads to an increase in 
political prisoners, torture, and forced 
disappearances, the criminalization of the young 
and maras, and affects us individually and collectively;
    * That militarization is a maximum expression 
of patriarchy, where women are not only the 
principle victims of violence, but their bodies 
become a battleground as they are seen as the 
spoils of war and vehicles of terror and domination;
    * That militarization relies on forced 
recruitment and/or deceptive practices that 
violate rights and destroy the futures of young 
people, especially the poor and people of color;
    * That militarization also expresses itself 
through violence, repression, and intolerance to 
sexual diversity, blocking the creation of an 
inclusive culture of peace without discrimination;
    * That militarization forces people to 
migrate and then applies anti-migrant laws in the 
United States and the European Union to 
criminalize them and make them victims of 
multiple human rights violations; militarization 
of the borders causes the death of thousands of 
men, women, and children a year;
    * That militarization constitutes a threat to 
small farmer movements since their demands for 
agrarian reform, food sovereignty, and access to 
land are put down with violence;
    * That militarization is the mechanism of 
control of capital over strategic resources and 
energy and violates the rights of communities to 
exercise control over their resources and make 
decisions on their own land and territory;
    * That the military structure of domination 
in our hemisphere is currently expressed in the 
presence of U.S. military bases, the Merida 
Initiative, Plan Colombia, the IV Fleet the 
Security and Prosperity Partnership of NAFTA, the 
School of the Americas (WHINSEC), the Delta Force and South Com;
    * That militarization is accompanied by 
terrorism of the media, a strategy of 
manipulation and fear, a military ideology 
characterized by media colonialism, among other 
forms, of domination and alienation;
    * That militarization is expanded through the 
so-called "War on Drugs" as the perfect excuse to 
militarize society and state structures;
    * That militarization is the response to 
criminalization of social protest conceived of as 
a threat to the system of domination under the 
so-called anti-terrorist laws that follow the model of the U.S. Patriot Act;
    * That militarization encourages the growth 
of the military budget, benefiting the war 
industry in the public and private sectors, 
generating foreign debt, and diverting resources 
that could be destined to satisfy economic, social, and cultural rights;
    * That militarization is the means of 
implementing and securing infrastructure 
megaprojects and investment of large 
transnational capital, such as Plan Puebla 
Panama, the Regional Initiative for South 
American Infrastructure (IIRSA), Free Trade 
Agreements, and Agreements of Association.

Therefore, we demand:
    * Immediate and definitive closure of all 
U.S. military bases and of any other foreign 
nation in Latin American and the Caribbean, and a 
prohibition on transporting or opening new bases on our continent;
    * Cancellation of the IV Fleet that violates 
the sovereignty of our peoples;
    * Immediate withdrawal of the MINUSTAH in 
Haiti and its replacement with delegations of 
solidarity, cooperation, and reconstruction; 
immediate cancellation of the unjust foreign debt that is choking the country;
    * Cancellation of infrastructure projects and 
megaprojects that violate the right of Latin 
American, Indoamerican, and Caribbean populations 
over their territories and ancestral resources;
    * An end to Plan Colombia and the Merida 
Initiative that deepen U.S. military intervention 
and contribute to the militarization of our counties;
    * The repeal of all anti-terrorist laws that 
harm our people and criminalize grassroots protest;
    * Full respect for the rights of women and an 
immediate end to sexual violence, and the 
prostitution and trafficking of women where 
military bases are located and in conflict zones;
    * Withdrawal of U.S. troops and all attempts 
to militarize the Triple Border and respect for 
the territories and sovereignty of the people of the south;
    * The substitution of the militarized model 
of "war on drugs" with measures of citizen 
participation, community heath, etc.;
    * Full respect for the rights of migrants and 
cancellation of the "wall of shame" on the U.S.-Mexico border;
    * Respect for our right to have, manage, and 
operate our own means of communication, 
strengthening and creation of networks of our own 
media, indigenous, popular community, and 
alternative, and to recuperate public spaces for direct communication;
    * Access to immediate and accurate 
information on the national budget assigned to 
finance militarization to disarm these budgets 
and demand that the resources be used for the 
wellbeing of the entire population;
    * Lift the embargo on Cuba, especially now 
when it suffers along with Haiti the consequences 
of hurricanes Gustav and Ike;
    * An end to the secessionist violence and the 
meddling of the U.S. government in Bolivia.

The participants of the II Conference Against Militarization
    * Salute the decision of the Ecuadorian 
people and government to permanently close the military base in Manta in 2009;
    * Express our solidarity with the Bolivian 
people and their struggle to defend the integrity 
of their nation and its sovereignty;
    * Salute the construction of the Bolivarian 
Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) based on 
unlimited respect for human rights and equitable relations.

Considering the above, we reaffirm our commitment 
to struggle for a world and a continent 
demilitarized, disarmed, free of war, poverty, 
and violence. These days have allowed us to 
deepen the knowledge of the shared reality we 
confront, and to identify and formulate lines of 
strategic action that enable our popular 
movements to confront the permanent aggression 
and criminalization that our peoples and 
movements suffer. This is reflected in our 
continental plan of action against 
militarization, and through these Campaigns and 
Actions on the grassroots level organized within 
each nation and throughout the continent, we can 
reach a day not long from now when we fulfill the 
dream of living free of violence, exclusion, and war.

"The People Speak Out to Silence the Weapons!"

"With the ancestral force of Iselaca and Lempira, 
we raise our voices for life, justice, dignity, liberty, and peace!"

End Notes

    * Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, 
Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Cuba, Haiti, Dominican 
Republic, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, 
Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Colombia, Venezuela, 
Brazil, Puerto Rico, United States, Canada, and 
guests from other regions. Indigenous peoples of 
Indoamerica included Mapuche, Aymara, Mayas, 
Lencas, Garífunas, Chorotegas, Emberá katíos del 
Altosinú, Zapotecos, and others.

To reprint this article, please contact 
<mailto:americas at ciponline.org>americas at ciponline.org. 
The opinions expressed here are the author's and 
do not necessarily represent the views of the CIP 
Americas Policy Program or the Center for International Policy.

For More Information

All resources on the Merida Initiative

A Primer on Plan Mexico

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