Why Colombian Court Says U.S. Troops Must Leave

The high court strikes down the military agreement

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Colombia's Constitutional Court has struck down an agreement that allows the U.S. military to use Colombian bases. The military deal has been a crucial component of the joint U.S.-Colombian fight against FARC and the narco-insurgency that once plagued the country with violence, kidnapping, and some of the world's worst political corruption. So why is the Colombian court trying to kick out the U.S. and what does it mean?

  • The Court's Legal Rationale  The L.A. Times' Daniel Hernandez reports, "The ruling on Tuesday by the Constitutional Court declared the agreement signed by outgoing President Alvaro Uribe unconstitutional because it bypassed approval of the Congress. The agreement was signed in October and faced intense criticism from Colombia's more left-leaning neighbors, including Venezuela and Bolivia. [Incoming] President Juan Manuel Santos, who was inaugurated on Aug. 7, enjoys a wide political majority in Colombia's Congress and told reporters Wednesday that the ruling would have no effect on cooperation between the U.S. and its closest ally in Latin America. It remains unclear whether Santos will seek ratification of the pact by lawmakers."
  • U.S. Urges Colombia to Repeal  Al Jazeera reports, "The United States has asked Colombia to take 'appropriate steps' to sustain relations a day after a key bilateral military accord was declared unconstitutional... On Wednesday Philip Crowley, a US state department spokesman, said the US looks 'to the Santos government to take appropriate steps to make sure that we can sustain our bilateral relationship. There can be, you know, actions taken by the executive or by the legislative branch to overcome, you know, the questions that have been raised.'"
  • Colombia: We Will Obey Ruling  Latin American news agency TeleSur reports (rough translation here) that the Colombian government has promised to abide by the high court's ruling.
  • Colombian Legislature Will Re-Approve  NGO official Adam Isacson is confident. "US-Colombia defense agreement is suspended until approved by Colombian Congress, which is 80% pro-Santos/Uribe so ratification likely," he writes. "In the meantime, US troops will still be at Colombian bases, as in the past 10 years. Just more steps needed to approve each deployment."
  • Political Blow, But No Change for Military  Adam Isacson adds on the Center for International Policy blog, "Politically, the court’s decision is a blow to both governments because it gives the impression – deserved or no – that the Obama and Uribe administrations sought to do something that violated Colombia’s Constitution. Operationally, however, the defense accord’s suspension will not affect the U.S. presence in Colombia. Not a single U.S. soldier or contractor will have to leave Colombia or alter what he is doing as a result of the Constitutional Court’s decision."
  • Colombia's Neighbors Urge U.S. Expulsion  PBS's Jennifer Jo Janisch writes, "Santos will likely have the congressional support to get the agreement passed, but he faces an increasingly hostile environment, as many Latin American governments are wary of perceived U.S. intervention and militarization in the region. Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez was vocal in his opposition to the deal, believing it to be part of a buildup of U.S. military activity in the region. 'Winds of war have begun to blow,' Chavez said last month at a meeting in Quito."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.