On the same day, legislators were negotiating for a new military base
by Stella Calloni
Buenos Aires, June 30 – While the hasty political trial, considered illegal by neighboring countries, of the democratically elected president of Paraguay, Fernando Lugo, was taking place last June 22, Paraguayan congressmen were meeting with United States military officers to negotiate the building of a military base in Chaco, a vast uninhabited region of the South American country.
Congressman José López Chávez, who is associated with UNACE (Unión Nacional de Ciudadanos Éticos), the dissident group of the Colorado Party headed by golpista General Lino Oviedo, with whom he has some differences, and is chairman of the Defense Committee of the lower chamber, expressed his hope that the United States will establish military bases in Chaco, according to ABC Color.
According to that news source, the most powerful rightist media complex in Paraguay and a key to the overthrow of Lugo, Congressman López Chávez, who has been accused of Mafia activity, confirmed that he discussed with United States military heads the possibility of establishing military bases, a matter being analyzed by the Pentagon.
In statements to a Paraguayan broadcast station (789AM), the legislator argued that “it is necessary” to build these bases since, by his assessment, Bolivia “constitutes a threat for Paraguay, due to the arms race it is developing.” He likewise claims that his country needs to improve its security in uninhabited areas.
The possible bilateral agreement would bring “humanitarian aid from United States troops” to the local population. As is known, the “civic action” and “humanitarian aid” already carried out in Paraguay by United States troops, who were given diplomatic immunity in May, 2005, is a scheme for counterinsurgency, espionage and population and territorial control.
According to the sources, the proposal became public last June 23, “after an encounter between persons connected with the Chamber of Deputies Defense Committee with a group of generals from the United States, who had come to the country to discuss eventual cooperation agreements.”
This could be one of the reasons for the speed with which Lugo was removed from the government, because of commitments to the Mercado Común del Sur (Mercosur) and the Unión de Naciones Sudamericanas (Unasur), which would not have allowed moving forward with the process of establishing military bases.
In 2009 Lugo had rejected, although weakly, the possibility of large maneuvers by the Southern Command in Paraguay, citing commitments to member nations.
But beginning in 2005, before Lugo came to power, the entry of United States troops into Paraguay was allowed, with immunity, free passage and the right to remain in effect until December, 2006, renewable automatically, as this newspaper reported at the time.
It was one of the hardest blows Washington had dealt against Mercosur, which thus surrendered its jurisdictional power, since the soldiers can carry weapons, equipment and medications and can act in any part of the territory, and, without further authorization, a contingent of 400 soldiers, the first, as well as special groups entered the country at that time.
In reality, these kinds of troops never left Paraguay. When dictator Alfredo Stroessner was overthrown in a coup “among friends” in February, 1989, military officers who had participated in his long dictatorship (1954 to 1989) remained in power.
Paraguay gave up the right to investigate crimes that might be committed by the foreign troops and cannot sue Washington before the International Criminal Court, thus violating its legislation.
In Paraguay, detailed reports by military analysts warned of the United States’ powerful infrastructure in a country of geostrategic importance, since it borders Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina and is relatively close to other countries where there are U.S. military bases.
The military officers of the Southern Command have staked out territory that is over the extensive Guaraní aquifer, one of the largest reserves of potable water in the world, located at the triple border Paraguay has with Argentina and Brazil.
According to the military reports, all the Paraguayan barracks near the borders are prepared as infrastructure for United States troops, who have even dug artesian wells for potable water, supposedly for the campesinos, who in reality do not use them.
So the Mariscal Estigarribia base, located only 250 kilometers from Bolivia, has a runway almost 3,800 meters long, in a country with hardly any air force.
This was built by United States troops, who modernized it in recent years, and is designed to accept Galaxy and B-52 planes, as well as other aircraft carrying large-scale equipment and weapons; the runway at the Palmerola base in Honduras is similarly prepared.
Similarly, thousands of soldiers can be posted there at any time if there is a need to do so. It is listed as one of the United States bases in Latin America with the most powerful infrastructure.
Nevertheless, it is apparent that given the offensive in progress against the governments of South America that made possible the golpista dramas in Bolivia and Paraguay in June of this year, as well as failed destabilizations in Argentina, it is necessary to station more troops in that strategic location.
The news of the agreements between congressmen tied to the dictatorship and the United States generals is not surprising under these circumstances. And precisely in a country where the struggle for stolen and ill-gotten lands, as the Comisión por la Memoria, la Verdad y la Justicia characterized them, social conflict is a permanent presence.
For the campesinos, recovering their lands is a matter of life or death. Especially because of the attacks by the so-called “Brasiguayos” and their shock troops, soy merchants from Brazil, but, as human rights defender Martín Almada holds, they make up a part of the large corporations like Monsanto, which are making advances on the continent.
Behind the overthrow of Lugo there are elements that should be seen as a strategic attack in the process of destabilization, tending toward striking a blow against Latin American integration.
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Tags: Alfredo Stroessner, Brasiguayos, Chaco, Colorado Party, Fernando Lugo, Guarani aquifer, humanitarian aid, Jose Lopez Chavez, Lino Oviedo, Mariscal Estigarribia base, Mercado Comun del Sur, Monsanto, Paraguay, Southern Command, Union de Naciones Sudamericanas, United States military