Colombia’s president says court ruling on base deal won’t affect military cooperation with US

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Colombia president sees no effect from base ruling

BOGOTA, Colombia — A Colombian court ruling overturning an accord giving U.S. troops access to more of Colombia’s bases will have little impact on military cooperation with Washington, President Juan Manuel Santos said Wednesday.

He said Colombia, the United States’ closest ally in South America, will continue to get U.S. help for the government’s fight against drug traffickers and leftist rebel groups.

“The consequences of the ruling for the help we have been receiving from the United States are minimal, if not none,” Santos said.

On Tuesday, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled the base agreement unconstitutional, finding it was a treaty that should have been submitted to legislators for approval. The government had argued the deal was merely an adjustment to previous military cooperation treaties and didn’t need to be ratified by Colombia’s Congress.

The court took note of the earlier agreements, saying U.S. troops were still free to use Colombian bases as outlined in the previous accords. It said only the seven added bases listed in last fall’s accord were affected by the ruling.

Santos said that meant the ruling “will not affect at all” the operations of U.S. troops and military contractors who work with Colombia’s military.

“The fight against terrorism has no truce and this court’s decision in no way affects what we’ve been receiving from the United States,” he said.

In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley called the military relationship with Colombia important and said the administration will consult with Santos’ government on any changes needed to be made.

“Our interests aren’t changed because of this court ruling. We expect to be able to continue to cooperate, but obviously will work with Colombia to determine what it plans to do in light of this court ruling,” Crowley said.

Both governments have said the agreement, which has drawn criticism from some South American nations, particularly neighboring Venezuela, was aimed at increasing U.S. help in monitoring drug trafficking.

Colombian military leaders stressed that the accord did not increase the number of U.S. troops and civilian contractors in Colombia beyond the limit of 1,400 set by U.S. law.

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