[News] Columbia - Roots and branches of the bases

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon Oct 26 12:20:44 EDT 2009

Roots and branches of the bases

October 26, 2009

By Hector Mondragon


The United States guarantees positively and 
efficiently to New Granada, by the present 
stipulation, the perfect neutrality of the Panama 
isthmus, by which the free transit from one to 
the other ocean will never, for so long as this 
Treaty exists, be interrupted, nor slowed, and, 
following this, guarantees in the same way the 
rights of sovereignty and property that New 
Granada holds over the said territory.

Article 35, Mallarino-Bidlack Treaty of Peace, 
Friendship, Navigation and Commerce, December 12 1846.

The acceptance of the military presence of the US 
in Colombia by the governments of the country was 
renewed by Laureano Gomez in 1952 but dates from 
much earlier in 1846, when the first government 
of Tomas Cipriano de Mosquera docilely accepted a 
treaty that frankly, if not cynically, mixed 
economic and commercial matters with the 
deployment of troops. This treaty, like previous 
ones, did not speak of "bases" but tacitly 
allowed the presence of troops every time the US 
thought that the "neutrality" of Panama or the 
"free transit" through the isthmus or the 
"sovereignty and property" of Colombia were in jeopardy.

The artisans opposed the treaty and on October 4 
1847 founded the Democratic Societies to stop 
"free trade" and defend national production. In 
1854 the artisans' revolutionary attempt, 
presided over by Pijao President Jose Maria Melo, 
was defeated. In the Panama isthmus the rage of 
artisans ruined by foreign merchandise and of 
local carriers ruined by the Panama railroad 
triggered the "Watermelon War", a riot on April 
15, 1856 that started when an American refused to 
pay for a slice of watermelon and ended in 
clashes between Panamanians and Americans and 
over a dozen deaths. It was the pretext for the 
first American military intervention on September 19 1856.

Other military interventions by the US in Panama 
occurred on December 7 of 1860 following another 
brawl; on March 9 1865 after a revolt caused by 
the removal of a governor; and a more serious 
intervention on April 1 1885 to suppress a 
rebellion against Rafael Nuñez that began when 
the Colon fire was attributed to the rebels. The 
North American Armada was not limited to Panama 
in those days. The ship Parahaton made its 
presence felt on the shores of Cartagena, on the 
pretext of "protecting the US consulate, 
citizens, and interests", when that city was 
besieged by rebels. Daily communication with US 
troops who landed from the ship hindered the 
rebels and helped the Nuñistas, even as another 
American warship, the Alliance, captured the ship 
with which the rebels were about to complete the 
siege. The foreign military intervention decided 
the war in Nuñez's favor. Nearby, General 
Palacios, a Nunista, took advantage of the 
victory to go to Tubara and seize the Mocana 
indigenous reserve in the hope of taking the natural gas contained below it.

In 1902, during the War of a Thousand Days, 
American troops came back, this time to stay. On 
November 11 1903 they ended up with the canal and 
separated the Panama isthmus from Colombia. Six 
months before, the indigenous leader of the 
Panamanian revolution, Victoriano Lorenzo, had been shot.

On the Panamanian side, the new Republic 
cancelled the June 4, 1870 law that recognized 
the Kuna indigenous territory, as well as the 
first recognition of an indigenous territorial 
entity in Colombian history, the Comarca 
Tulenega. The Inananguina sailadummat proposed to 
maintain integration with Colombia and demanded 
respect for the Comarca territory. In 1915 Panama 
created the Inspectorate of San Blas, which 
negated all indigenous autonomy and handed land 
concessions to banana and mining companies 
throughout the territory. On February 25 1925, 
the triumphant Kuna Revolution, led by Nele 
Kantule, began and in 1938 the Kuna had 
reconquered recognition of their Comarca.


The recent rise in oil prices has revived 
America's appreciation for its strategic 
relationships with countries in the Middle East 
and reminded us why we came to their defense in 
the Persian Gulf War a half-world away. To me, 
there is an indisputable parallel to the 
situation in our own back yard: the crisis in 
Colombia... the United States went to war with a 
powerful enemy partly to stabilize a major 
oil-producing region. We worried that Iraq would 
attack Saudi Arabia, an ally and one of the 
United States' largest oil suppliers. Where is 
that same concern with Colombia today?

Paul Coverdell, "Starting with Colombia", Washington Post April 10, 2000 A21

Senator Paul Coverdell was no mere commentator. 
Before he died, he designed the new hemispheric 
strategy founded on satisfying US petroleum 
needs. He emphasized about Venezuela like "our 
largest exporter of oil". He compared the 
situation of our region with that of the Middle 
East and considered that the new Venezuelan 
government and the growing indigenous and popular 
movement in Ecuador threatened regional stability 
and US energy supply. He defended Plan Colombia 
and the presence of the US in Colombia as 
necessary instruments, at least as important as making war on Iraq.

Two years later on February 12 2002, present 
Minister of Defense Gabriel Silva noted the new 
strategy of the US and the role assigned to 
Colombia: "The combination of a sensitive 
increase in risk to extra-regional supplies of 
petroleum, coupled with a progressively more and 
more hostile and messianic regime in the main 
supplier in the Americas, has forced U.S. 
government to secure alternative sources of oil. 
This is the crossroads in which Colombia appears 
as a new strategic priority. The geopolitical 
re-evaluation of our country as a trusted source 
of energy creates a series of opportunities that we should not waste."

Mr. Gabriel Silva titled his article in El Tiempo 
"Petroleum for Security", hoping to deliver 
Colombian oil until "Colombia be able to supply 
10% of US consumption". For the moment, there is 
no such amount of Colombian oil. Coverdell's 
vision is actually much more concrete: the oil 
that Colombia can deliver is from Venezuela.

For all its concreteness, Coverdell's vision is 
as absurd as it is limited and short-term, but 
the experience of the military presence in Panama 
shows that its real effects, "free trade", 
investments, all kinds of natural resources, are 
multifaceted and can only be understood on the 
scale of decades: 1846 was only concluded in 1903.


"The government will lend to the contracting 
Companies, by bodies of armed police or public 
forces when necessary, the protection required to 
prevent or repel the hostility or attacks of the 
savage tribes who dwell in the regions that are 
part of the land subject to this contract."

Chaux-Folsom Contract, clause 29, subsection b: March 4 1931

In a letter to Congress, Quintin Lame protested 
the contract between the Colombian government and 
Gulf and Mobil at the expense of the indigenous 
Bari people: "The government has committed, at 
the request of Gulf, to attack with force, with 
the army and police, the Indians who live and 
have their crops in the Catatumbo region... the 
tribes, with whose cause I have always been in 
solidarity, and now more than ever, when because 
of the ambitions of a company made up of 
foreigners and a few badly advised Colombians, 
find themselves attacked, destroyed, their property plundered."

Treaties, foreign troops, local troops, 
contracts, concessions, plunder... the people 
pay. The elites trade territories and natural 
resources for security, their security, the 
guarantee that the foreign powers will intervene to maintain the status quo.

Bases to fight against the FARC? No, bases thanks 
to the breaking of the FARC, their defeaths and 
their strategic failure that has become a tragedy 
for popular struggle, that has allowed the 
strengthening of the extreme right that now 
controls the government and permits Coverdell's vision to become reality.

In no case are these bases to finish with 
narcotrafficking. Plan Colombia has shown that 
the cultivation and production of coca doesn't 
decrease (or grow) with fumigation or 
eradication, but along with the business cycles 
in price. When the price goes up, so too does the 
power of the mafia (like today) and production 
increases despite fumigation (as in 2006 and 
2007). When the price goes down, production falls too (as in 2008).

The bases are to take the oil, the gold, industry 
and agriculture. To contain the mass civil 
resistance of the people. To repress the 
mobilizations of the "savages who dwell in the 
regions that are part of the territories" of any 
of the contracts of the transnationals, "by 
bodies of armed police or public forces when necessary."

This article originally appeared in Actualidad 
Etnica. It was translated from Spanish by Justin Podur.

From: Z Net - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives

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