American resistance

Published : Oct 09, 2009 00:00 IST

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconi: No country should have foreign bases on its territory. It is a cause of regional destabilisation.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconi: No country should have foreign bases on its territory. It is a cause of regional destabilisation.-BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

THE Foreign Minister of Ecuador, Fander Falconi, was in New Delhi in the first week of September to attend the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministerial meet. He came straight from a special summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Argentina, which was attended by most Latin American heads of state. Ecuador is the current Chairman of the grouping. The special summit was called to discuss the recent agreement between Colombia and the United States to give the American military access to seven military bases in Colombia. The agreement infuriated Colombias neighbours and was criticised by most leading powers in the region, such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile.

Under the agreement, details of which became public in July, Colombia will give the U.S. long-term access to three air bases, two army installations and two naval ports. Colombian officials maintain that U.S. assistance is necessary to fight the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels and the drug cartels.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told the summit that the bases remained Colombian and that the new agreement only formalised certain long-standing arrangements between the two countries. For the past one decade, the U.S., under Plan Colombia, had poured in billions of dollars in military aid to the country in its global war on drugs.

The UNASUR summit ended with the resolution that no foreign military force should be allowed to threaten the sovereignty of a South American nation.

In an exclusive interview to Frontline, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister said the summit reiterated that Latin America should remain a region of peace and that extra-territorial designs of outside forces should be thwarted. This development, he said, was a positive one. Falconi pointed out that the U.S. administration under George W. Bush had meddled in the internal affairs of many Latin American countries.

Falconi told Frontline that a South American Defence Agreement had been initialled at the summit. This, according to him, will help create a more secure environment in the region. The UNASUR summit ended on a positive note as it also dealt with multilateral issues having serious ramifications for the region, he said.

The Minister said that Ecuadors position on the U.S. military bases in Colombia had been made clear. We have declared in our Constitution that our territory is a peaceful region. We feel that no country should have foreign bases on its territory. It is a cause of regional destabilisation. This is the basis of our foreign policy, said Falconi.

The Ecuadorian Foreign Minister did not agree with the Colombian governments assertion that American military assistance was necessary to combat the narco-traffickers and insurgent groups. He said that the Colombian authorities initially indicated that the bases were necessary to combat the drug cartels. Later on, they said that the U.S. forces were there to help the Colombian military combat the FARC forces. So it is not clear whether the seven U.S. military bases are there to combat narco-traffickers or subversives.

Ecuador has made the U.S. vacate its military base in Manta. President Rafael Correa, immediately after he was elected in 2007, gave notice to the U.S. to vacate the base. Ecuador took the sovereign decision to ask the U.S. to vacate the base. We had indicated to the Americans that all acts limiting our sovereignty had to be ended. September 18 is the day the Americans will vacate the Manta base and on that day we will fully recover our sovereignty, Falconi emphasised.

Regarding the new agreement between Washington and Bogota, Falconi said that only its broad contours had emerged. We are not aware of the fine print. We are aware of the highlights but not of the secret clauses. That is why UNASUR is emphasising on transparency.

Speaking about the tense relations between his country and Colombia following the attack on a FARC camp inside Ecuador in March last year, Falconi said that Colombia had breached his countrys sovereignty. Their military forces occupied our territory for more than 11 hours. It was an attack on our sovereignty, which was condemned by the international community and by the Latin American countries at the Rio Group earlier this year. Ecuador has been trying to find a diplomatic solution to the row with Colombia by putting forward a list of minimum demands. It is the joint responsibility of the two countries to maintain peace and communication along their common border, Falconi said.

Falconi revealed that his country hosted between 500,000 and 600,000 Colombian nationals. Out of them, 135,000 were refugees, he said. This is a humanitarian situation. At the moment, we have given refugee status to 135,000 people. We have also asked the Colombian government to compensate us for the harm caused to us by the attack inside our territory. We also want to know the truth behind the attack and whether it was done on behalf of a third country. We also want the international community to recognise who the guilty party is. Ecuador, he said, was keen to have a substantive dialogue with Colombia to sort out bilateral issues.

Ecuador was recently in the news in connection with a $27 billion lawsuit against the U.S. oil giant Chevron, accusing it of causing incalculable harm to the pristine environment of the Amazon region where Texaco, which was acquired by Chevron in 2001, was carrying out drilling activities. The company is being sued by the inhabitants of the Amazon region for dumping toxic waste from 1972 to 1990. This is an area where the native population is fighting the case and the government is not intervening, Falconi clarified. Influential sections of the American media have been alleging that the Ecuadorian government is behind the move to file a lawsuit.

Speaking on the leftward trend in Latin American politics, the Minister said that the region was witnessing a lot of changes in many aspects. First of all, there is a consolidation of governments that are trying to bring about positive democratic changes. The coup detat that happened in Honduras was quite unfortunate. It breaks the momentum towards which all Latin American countries are heading and takes us back to the 1970s when people were living under dictatorships.

The main focus of the governments is to consolidate democracy, to focus on human development, and to eradicate inequality of all types. All sections of society have to participate in government, the Minister said.

Falconi said that the international outcry against the coup in Honduras was unprecedented. There was a major rejection of the coup and there was a call to reinstate the ousted President, Manuel Zelaya. The Central American Integration System (SICA), the Andean Community, ALBA [Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas], the Organisation of American States (OAS, which includes the U.S. and Canada), and the United Nations took the historic decision of condemning the coup detat. But the condemnations have not been sufficient so far. The Minister emphasised the need to strengthen further the sanctions regime against the recalcitrant, military-backed government in Honduras.

Ecuador is among the many Latin American countries where the indigenous communities, which form a significant section of the population, have begun to assert themselves politically. The indigenous populations have a major potential for organisation. It is a main component in the process of change, Falconi said.

Ecuador remains firmly committed to ALBA. This grouping, earlier called the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, was formed in 2004 to counter the U.S.-led Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the region, by Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. Nicaragua, Honduras and Ecuador and the smaller Caribbean nations joined it later. ALBA is an important option for Ecuador. It is not the only option, Falconi said.

Ecuador, the Minister explained, was also working towards strengthening multilateral relationships. It wants to strengthen the strategic links in the Andean region as well as in the Mercosur (the common market for South America) and UNASUR, he said.

ALBA is an important forum for coordination as the members have shared interests. We are working towards economic integration and the setting up of oil and gas companies. It involves the setting up of a new financial structure and that is what we are working on. The structure will be put in place in January next year to facilitate the easy flow of finances and set up projects of common interest, the Minister said.

Sign in to Unlock member-only benefits!
  • Bookmark stories to read later.
  • Comment on stories to start conversations.
  • Subscribe to our newsletters.
  • Get notified about discounts and offers to our products.
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide to our community guidelines for posting your comment