U.S. Official Vows 'Good Explanation' For Colombia Bases
U.S. President Barack Obama's national security adviser said Tuesday Washington will give a "good explanation" for plans to deploy U.S. military units to bases in Colombia, after unease expressed in Latin America.
Retired general Jim Jones told reporters after meeting Brazilian Defense Minister Nelson Jobim in Brasilia that the goals of the agreement being negotiated allowing the use of the bases would be detailed.
The matter "will have a good explanation and a satisfactory outcome," he predicted to reporters as he began two days of talks with Brazilian officials on that and other defense issues.
Brazil and other Latin American nations, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Chile, expressed alarm at the announcement last month that the United States military would use and expand bases in Colombia.
Bogota had initially said three air bases would be used for the U.S. fight against drug trafficking.
But the head of the Colombian military, General Freddy Padilla, said Tuesday two army bases and two navy bases would also be given U.S. access under the deal, bringing the total to seven military facilities.
U.S. General Douglas Fraser, in charge of U.S. Southern Command operations covering South America, stressed after a meeting with Padilla in Cartagena, Colombia, that no deal had yet been struck.
Brazil's Lula said last week he was "not happy" at even one base being handed over for U.S. operations.
His foreign minister, Celso Amorim, said on the weekend: "What worries Brazil is a strong military presence whose aim and capability seems to go well beyond what might be needed inside Colombia."
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, long a thorn in the side of the United States, has said he feared the bases might be used for an invasion of his country by a "Yankee military force."
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Washington's principal ally in South America, on Tuesday left for a tour to include Peru, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay where he would reassure regional governments about the bases.
Jones's hasty visit was also seen as an effort to smooth ruffled feathers in Brazil, which increasingly sees itself as Latin America's pre-eminent economic and political power.
The U.S. national security advisor forecast that the issue "will in no way interfere the progress of our friendship and our cooperation together."