Colombian Court Stands Tall on US Military Base Issue

Yesterday, at least one Colombian agency enacted what seems to be an atypical act of political bravery against the United States. The Colombian Constitutional Court, not particularly known for its audacious moves, has suspended the defense agreement Colombia signed with the United States in 2009 on grounds that the measure was never approved by the congress and was thus unconstitutional. Washington’s 2009 defense agreement with Colombia was a cooperative act in which the US was allowed to operate out of seven Colombian military bases. Now the US military forces present at those locations situated across Colombia, must withdraw to other Colombian bases until the Colombian Congress approves the agreement in a democratic manner.

On the record, the Obama administration said it has been looking to improve relationships with Latin American countries through cooperation and respect rather than emulating the imperative attitude of the Bush administration. The latter saw the construction of the inter-American relationship by providing an open faucet for the flow of military policies, some of which proved destructive of regional goals and a sense of balance. The 2009 agreement was not in any way invasive but rather states that Colombia remains the sovereign owner of the bases in exchange for US cooperation with equipment and through the provision of funding for both military and social programs.

However, the problem was the manner through which this agreement was enacted. It was undemocratic and significantly weakened the already feeble democratic institutions, not only of Colombia, but also elsewhere in Latin America, by setting a precedent that the US ambassador and several Colombian ministers could achieve international agreements through means that skirt the legislative process.

The Colombian Constitutional Court has acted in the name of democracy and in the spirit of the separation of powers, has demonstrated that it can be an institution worthy of the respect of others as well as serve as an inspiration for other Latin America judiciaries that are better known for their venality than sense of honor. However, many speculate that newly elected President Santos, who brings with him a congressional majority, will have no problem in passing the necessary legislature through Congress that will restore status quo with the Pentagon. Nonetheless, the Colombian Constitutional Court has appropriately pointed to the basic principles of democracy and legal rectitude. Although, the US and Colombia are likely to resume the defense agreement, within days, this event should bring great distinction to the court and will hopefully set a precedent to uphold democratic values across Latin America, no matter how much pressure that the US might apply.

9 thoughts on “Colombian Court Stands Tall on US Military Base Issue

  • August 18, 2010 at 2:11 pm
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    Far from being feeble, I would say that Colombian democratic institutions have proven this year to be some of the strongest in South America. Colombia may be the only Latin American country that has successfully, through institutional means, dissuaded a continuista president from remaining in power past his legally appointed term. The Colombian courts' rejection of the manner in which the base deal was carried out yesterday only underscores the strength of that nation's institution. Compare this to Caracas district court no. 12 that yesterday forbade two newspapers from publishing any stories relating to violence for a whole month(lest it hurt the incumbent president's polling numbers come Sept. 26) and you can observe a substantial difference in the strength and quality of democracy.

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  • August 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm
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    Compare Human RIghts Watch reports on Colombia and Venezuela to see how grotesquely delusional "El Jefe's" remarks are. The Colombian government and its paramilitary allies are the main perpetrators of the most serious crimes (70% of the killings where the perpetrators were known in 2007, and 87% of the cases of torture). Since the 1990s, Al and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have thoroughly documented that Colombian military and paramilitaries commit most of the serious crimes and collaborate extensively with each other. Political assasinations now average about 1400 per year.____The net result of Uribe's fraudulent "demobilization" of paramilitaries was summed up by HRW as follows ____"…paramilitaries have made major gains in consolidating this impunity, along with their economic and political power, with the collusion of the Colombian government."____Under Uribe, Colombia's population of internally displaced people has grown from 2 to at least 3 million people – over 70% of them from rural areas. Only the Sudan has more internal refugees.____All of this according to a source, HRW, that has proven to be hostile to the Chavez government. ____

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  • August 18, 2010 at 9:44 pm
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    Uhmm….so the Colombian army and its allies are apparently very good at killing people? The sky is blue and the pope is Catholic too. However, we're not talking about them or their abuses. What I'm talking about is the Colombian supreme court and its ability to take a stand on issues of national importance. Where other countries' institutions would have allowed the base deal to be carried out in any manner even if it wasn't in accordance with national law, the Colombian supreme court took a stand. Likewise, when Uribe tried to stand for a third term, the nation's highest court did not permit him to do so. There are many human rights violations in Colombia. However, unlike in many other countries in the region, it cannot be said that their supreme court is a rubber stamp for the executive.

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  • August 18, 2010 at 10:10 pm
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    Democracy or Administrations are distinct matters and both U.S. and Colombia fail the test of drafting a U.S. base deal under the rudiments of… LAW.

    This is the ISSUE.

    It is detrimental to both nation's Executive Branches.

    IMHO.

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  • August 18, 2010 at 10:17 pm
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    Democracy or Administrations are distinct matters and both U.S. and Colombia fail the test of drafting a U.S. base deal under the rudiments of… LAW.

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  • August 18, 2010 at 11:47 pm
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    El Jefe praises the "strength and quality" of Colombian democracy and apparently considers mass murder that the government and its paramilitaries allies carry out with impuinity as irrelevant in evaluating Colombian democracy..No wonder you post this nonsense hiding behind a pseudonym. Yes, some Colombian judges have demonstrated courage given the criminal regime they are up against. However, the fact remains tha Colombia's worst criminals- Uribe and company – will not be held accountable for their crimes by the Colombian judicaiary any time soon.

    As for the Venezuelan judicary, it has protected the murderers of pro-chavez peasants and unionsts whose licves are also irrelevant to people like "El Jefe"

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  • August 19, 2010 at 3:30 am
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    I want to join the comments of Mr. Joe Emersberger!
    However, as Joan Pablo Pitarque says: "Nonetheless, the Colombian Supreme Court has appropriately pointed to the basic principles of democracy and legal rectitude."
    Let us hope other steps into the direction of peace and justice will follow.

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