US establishes new military bases in South America

[Translation of an article from Brasil de Fato of São Paulo for May 15. See original here.]

by Indira Carpio Olivo and Ernesto J. Navarro

On March 24, 2012, the web site aporrea.org published a story from four days earlier, taken from matrizur.org, stating that the governor of the province of El Chaco was granting permission for installation by the [United States] Southern Command of a military base in that Argentine territory.

The story reads, “The building, which will be inaugurated this month, is located on the grounds of the airport in Resistencia, the capital of the northern province of El Chaco, is in the final stage of construction and will be the first such operations center in Argentina. All that is lacking is to equip it with information technology and then to turn over the facility and to finish with the training of personnel,” says Colonel Edwin Passmore of the Southern Command, who had met weeks earlier with Governor Jorge Capitanich.”

Days later, on April 5, the Chile of Sebastián Piñera opened the doors to the same Southern Command. A military complex located at Fuerte Aguayo in the community of Concón, in Valparaíso Region, some 130 kilometers northeast of the capital, Santiago, was opened ceremoniously. In the midst of protests, United States Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appeared, declaring that it is not a military base operated by his country but a Chilean base for training United Nations peace forces.

The Southern Command currently operates military bases in Paraguay, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Colombia and Peru. In an interview on the radio program La Brújula del Sur, Walter Goobar, writer and editor for the Sunday weekly Miradas al Sur and columnist for the daily Tiempo Argentino, commented that the government of the United States no longer calls these installations, financed by the Southern Command, “military bases,” but in the current terminology they are now referred to as “Cooperative Security Locations” (CSL) or “Forward Operating Locations” (FOL).

“The Southern Command is attempting to penetrate into different countries with programs that are not military (aid for disasters, emergencies, etc.), by which it can avoid authorization by congresses or national authorities,” declares Goobar. Despite the fact that the governor of the province of El Chaco, Jorge Capitanich, denies categorically that the installation granted to the United States army is a military base, Goobar points out, “It is obvious to me that it is a matter of military installations, financed by the Southern Command. The man appearing on behalf of the US, signing agreements with the governor of El Chaco, is Colonel Edwin Passmore, a man well known in Venezuela, since he was expelled for carrying out espionage activities; he is a man from United States intelligence.”

Control of a triple border

The Argentine writer and analyst states that the province of El Chaco is of great importance for several reasons. “In this specific case, (a base) gives the Southern Command control over a strategic area where the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay converge and where the famous Guarani Aquifer flows.” As it loses political leadership in South America, the United States needs a territorial kind of control ; Goobar adds that “the installation of bases in El Chaco and in Chile will also allow for the recruitment of local forces in order to have them under its command and on its payroll.”

Asked about the reasons the governor of El Chaco granted the permit, Walter Goobar tells us, “Personally, I believe that Governor Capitanich is trying to conduct a kind of foreign policy on his own. He is contradicting the basic postulates of the foreign policy of Néstor and Cristina Kirchner.”

Under siege?

In his articles, Goobar analyzes the Southern Command’s military deployment and considers that “there is indeed reason for concern. This military deployment goes hand in hand, or in the footsteps of, Great Britain’s deployment in the South Atlantic, in the Malvinas Islands, with nuclear ships.”

“Part of this deployment has to do with the Pentagon foreseeing some kind of crisis in the ALBA [Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América] countries and also with an eventual attack on Iran by Israel and/or the United States and the necessity of having its own backyard under control.”

Military landing

The base offered to the Southern Command in Argentina by the governor of El Chaco under the euphemism “emergency aid base” is located in the main airport of the region.

The reason? Walter Goobar explains: “At this time, the principal weapon of the United States are 7,500 unmanned airplanes called ‘drones,’ and to operate these airplanes it is not necessary to deploy soldiers; the only military deployment needed is a joystick, 14 computer screens and a pilot capable of flying three drones at the same time.”

Passmore

The colonel has performed “humanitarian tasks,” commanding his troops in the invasion of Afghanistan. Besides that, he was intelligence adviser to the minister of defense of Kuwait during the Iraq invasion.

Beginning in 2005 he served as military attaché in the United States embassy in Venezuela, a country from which he was expelled for espionage activity in the year 2008. In February, 2011, Edwin Passmore was involved in the introduction of “secret” diplomatic pouches that contained devices for secret communications, encryption and intercept of communications, global positioning devices, software packages (logical support) and a long list of narcotic and psychotropic substances.”

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