By Daniel Jerez, RCN Radio, June 10, 2020
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
Sectors of the opposition sharply criticized the Defense Minister for the presence of 53 members of the United States Army who, according to the government, are furnishing assistance to Colombia in the fight against drug trafficking.
Senator Iván Cepeda, during a debate on political control, warned that the Security Forces Assistance Brigade, which is already in the country, includes in its functions the possibility of contacting paramilitary or other illegal groups.
“In the annual ATP3-96,1, it says literally that this Brigade has the function to assist, first, paramilitaries in overcoming an insurgency, second, nongovernment militias, and third, irregular partners. Even though in the manual it is made clear that paramilitary groups are understood to be police, it is clear that this élite Brigade could and must make contact with irregular organizations,” said Cepeda.
The Senator warned that this means that the troops of the U.S. Army Southern Command could engage in contacts with criminal gangs in the territories where those groups are working.
“Minister, you have to explain why these troops have come to Colombia. Are they here to assist in the Colombian Army’s relations with the illegal groups, with the Rastrojo gentlemen, with the Clan del Golfo, with the criminal gangs in combating other illegal groups as the United States has already done in our territory? Because this is perfectly possible”, he maintained.
Cepeda said that the presence of this élite group in our country violates Colombian sovereignty, but he warned that it’s not the first time this has happened. Already in the month of January there were military exercises in cooperation with United States parachutists at the Tolemaida base, and nobody found out about it.
“In January the government violated national sovereignty by bringing 75 United States soldiers and also some airplanes without consulting Congress and without consulting the Council of State,” he indicated.
He also found it curious that the effort is to combat drug trafficking, when “in the manual that I cited, there are no such cooperation efforts. They are required to train local forces and also, in some cases, to confront the enemy on the ground.”
For his part, Senator Gustavo Petro said that he doesn’t understand how the government, which has majorities in both houses of the Congress, did not undertake a consultation about having the United States troops arrive in the country.
“It’s not far-fetched to think that the United States would like to control the oil in Venezuela,” said Petro.
Senator Antonio Sanguino thought the same thing. He said that the presence of these soldiers could be the prelude to an international confrontation.
“The presence of the United States soldiers has a close relation to Venezuela, in spite of the fact that the government denies it. We are going to end up trapped in an international conflict and in a standoff between great powers that are disputing over a strategic resource, which oil certainly is,” he said.
Senator Jorge Enrique Robledo said that “the troops that are coming are coming to defend the interests of the United States. They take their orders from their United States superiors. These troops are illegal, and if there is a war with Venezuela, it might set our country on fire and there could be thousands of Colombian deaths.”
The Senators believe that the presence of those soldiers in Colombian territory, without the Senate’s permission, is totally illegal and violates Colombia’s sovereignty.