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Apr 24th
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Resist Militarization! PDF Print E-mail
Interview with Rina Bertaccini, President of the Movement for Peace, Sovereignty and Solidarity between Peoples

Alto al MilitarismoThe growth of military bases in Latin America, the reactivation of the U.S. Navy’s fourth fleet, and the more than 1000 Latin American soldiers passing through the School of the Americas each year are all a part of the phenomenon of the growing militarization in which our continent lives.

We spoke with Rina Bertacini, President of the Movement for Peace, Sovereignty, and Solidarity between peoples of Argentina, as well as Vice President of the World Peace Council about the situation in our continent, where there is a positive relation between the growth of progressive governments in Latin America and a growing U.S. military presence.

Rina: US state policy has had  a decidedly negative effect on Latin America, but this is not simply because it is the US. There are much more complex factors involved. These complex factors to which I am referring to include, first, the politics of Washington. Though the presidential administrations have changed, they all continue to subscribe to a foreign policy that constitutes military, political, and economic intervention in our countries. Currently, media intervention has a tremendous influence here. It misinforms and confounds the population, in addition to the fact that it presents a skewed perspective of the world to Latin Americans that is simply not real. The U.S. presence in Latin America has been nothing short of invasive.

How does this tremendous impact that you just described affect the average person? Many people say its beneficial to be connected to this “Big Brother”...

First, the economic policies that the US has imposed have greatly affected Argentina. I believe that the best tool we can use to understand how these policies affect us is through analyzing how neoliberal policies were imposed, in our countries, through bloody military dictatorships. As a result of these policies, nation-states were dismembered, and policies of privatization, which are a core aspect of neoliberalism, mostly benefited the large transnational corporations and their associates. In the rural areas, they imposed, for example, what we call the “soy frontier”. In Argentina we have one of the world’s most important prairie regions. Unfortunately it has been invaded by soy, which is not meant to feed the populace. Rather, it is grown solely for use by national oligarchies and huge trasnational corporations who in turn gain massive profits from its growth.

In addition to this, we are still experiencing the legacies of the brutal tactics that the civil military dictatorships of the 1970s employed to impose this economic model. Thirty thousand people disappeared as a result, and that’s a monstrous sum!

So to conclude, the foreign policy of the U.S. is working against our people. There is a hefty social cost, inflicted by the U.S., that is still being paid.

What do you think about the growth of the military bases?

R: I believe that the U.S. has never removed itself from its large and small military bases that it has on the continent. This is what must be stated first, because now there’s lots of talk of the seven bases in Colombia, and that’s fine. But the U.S. was already in those bases due to “Plan Colombia”.What occurs now is that they’ve ratified an agreement, worse than the former, and that amongst the bases that the U.S. occupies today, though they say they’re Colombian, there is one base in particular that is the focus of our preoccupation. That’s the Palanquero base because this base has one of the longest landing strips on the continent and these are linked to other landing strips. The U.S. no longer wishes to construct its own bases with a sign that says “U.S. of A.” where it concentrates thousands of its own soldiers. Rather, they still want to have the very same presence but through these strategically distributed bases with extensive landing strip capacities.

With a U.S. presence at four or five bases, there could be a similar situation as to that in Palmerola, because of its expanse, or Palanquero, Mariscal Estigarriba in Paraguay. There’s also Ascension island in the Atlantic and the Malvinas military base, which is politically and militarily occupied by Great Britain, even though it is a NATO base.  The problem with this is that at any moment that the occupiers decide, they can swiftly move personnel and equipment around to invade any of our countries. It’s a concrete threat that hangs over our heads.

To give you a sense of what this threat means, in less than 6 hours, they can get into any of the modern galaxy airplanes by loading it up with all they need; arms, equipment, munitions, military personnel, etc and they can create a scenario that appears to be an invasion. This is not to say that tomorrow an invasion will occur, but one must be cognizant of this reality as this strategy is core to the Bush “preventative war” doctrine now being implemented by the Obama administration.  

Is there a new scenario?

R:I believe that they are re-militarizing the continent, in some cases in new ways. I think that the way in which the coup was carried out in Honduras should wake us all up to this re-militarization because it was very symbolic. They took Zelaya out of his house, then to Palmerola, and from there, outside of the country. Zelaya had been moving forward to participate in a process of integration such as ALBA, or at the very least that was his intention. Unfortunately the U.S. will not tolerate such actions, because if ALBA grows, then their misdeeds will be exposed to the people.

What challenges does the Latin American movement face in regards to these types of problems?

R:The great  challenge that we have now is to fight against these bases, against re-militarization. We must realize that there are alternatives which will allow us to counter this militarization, based on processes of integration. Although the Argentine government has many internal contradictions, it’s ministry of defense is promoting the creation and consolidation of the South American Defense council. Such a council would search for ways that our countries can have a policy of defense that would not be dictated by the Pentagon. Although this council would probably be anathema to the US government, if South American countries move forward in this direction together, our struggle will be that much more powerful.

Interview by Pablo Ruiz, a Chilean human rights activist and journalist who lives in Santiago, Chile. During the 1990’s he worked in Chile with the Committee Against Impunity, seeking to bring to trial military who had committed human rights abuses during the dictatorship of General Pinochet. In 1999 he joined the Kamarikun Human Rights Committee and in 2002 became a member of the Human Rights Education Team of the Chilean branch of Amnesty International.

Pablo’s focus on the SOA began in 2000 when he spearheaded efforts of Kamarikun to seek the withdrawal of Chile from the SOA. He organized the visit of the SOA Watch delegations to Chile, and joined several SOA Watch delegations to Colombia, Panamá and Ecuador. Currently, Pablo works as the SOA Watch Latin America Communications Coordinator.

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written by Archbishop Sergius, February 16, 2011
I am most impressed by this article and intend to advocate persistently for the dissolution of SOA ! Blessings...
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written by Simon Tarses, October 28, 2011
Although the Argentine government has many internal contradictions, it’s ministry of defense is promoting the creation and consolidation of the South American Defense council. Such a council would search for ways that our countries can have a policy of defense that would not be dictated by the Pentagon.

Said council also needs to have its member states cut the supply line from the USA (any equipment, weapons, etc should be brought from foreign sources [e.g. Russia, China, France, etc]) so that they don't have to feel beholden to the USA at all for anything.
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