by Michele Braley
On 23 August 2010, 3000 people from eight countries gathered at the
Palenquero Air Base in Puerto Salgar, Colombia to speak out against U.S.
militarization of Colombia. This event was the culmination of the Women and
People¹s International Summit of the Americas against Militarization that
took place 16-23 August 2010.
In a park across from the Palenquero Air Base, impassioned speakers demanded
sovereignty over their homes and land. Colombian Senator Gloria Inés Ramirez
spoke of the injustice inherent in the U.S. increasing its military presence
in her country to address narcotrafficking fueled by drug consumption in the
U.S. Yolanda Becerra, president of the Women¹s Popular Organization told
those gathered, “We don’t want only the end to shootings, we are asking for
a peace with social justice.”
The Palenquero Air Base is an important symbol of the U.S. military
occupation in Colombia. Palenquero is one of seven bases that U.S. military
personnel can use for the next ten years in an accord signed in October
2009. While the Colombian Constitutional Court struck down this accord on
17 August 2010, stating that the Colombian Congress, rather than the
President, has the authority to make the accord (read more at
eement) the court decision will not lead to the withdrawal of U.S.
troops, whose presence will continue under accords dating back to 1952.
The U.S. Congress has approved 46 million dollars for improvements to the
Palenquero Air Base, including eighteen million for a parking apron. (View
the U.S. Air Force budget report for the project starting on page 217 at
According to this report, “Development of (Palenquero) provides a unique
opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our
hemisphere, where security and stability is under constant threat from
narcotics-funded terrorist insurgencies, anti-U.S. governments, endemic
poverty and recurring natural disasters.” What the report does not explain
is how a 46 million dollar military response will address the poverty that
the U.S. Air Force believes is leading to instability in the region.
Indeed, aerial fumigations carried out under the Department of Defense
already add to poverty in the region by destroying food crops, polluting
water sources, and sickening animals and people.
The report further notes, “Limited restrictions on U.S. freedom of action by
partner nations” is a principle of the U.S. Air Force base development
program. With little ability to restrict U.S. freedom of action, Colombia
becomes a willing if silent partner in any U.S. aggression, inside or
outside the country.
Numerous speakers emphasized this potential for violation of individual,
community, and state sovereignty under the accord, which will prevent the
Colombian government from holding the U.S. military accountable for its
actions and the behavior of U.S. soldiers. Of particular concern to the
women¹s groups who organized the Summit is the increase in teen pregnancy
and prostitution that often accompanies an increase in military presence.
Nevertheless, the collective will of the participants to resist these abuses
was apparent at the meetings and in the theme of the Summit: “My body is my
house, my house is my territory. I will not surrender the keys!”