Friday, July 22, 2005

The New US Military Base in Paraguay that Doesn’t Exist

Note on this entry: I just finished an article on the US's questionable activities in Paraguay, check it out: What is the US Military Doing in Paraguay?

A story has been circulating through cyberspace about a new US military base in Paraguay, near the border with Bolivia. Sketchy and disparate information on the base abound, leaving some to believe it is nothing but a rumor blown out of proportion. Well, does it exist?

The main reasons for such a base could be that
A: The US is interested in being closer to Bolivia’s gas reserves, which are located near the border with Paraguay. Maybe they want to take over the reserves...(remember Iraq?)

B. The US is interested in monitoring the triple border area where Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil meet, an area that has been dubbed as “Islamic terrorist breeding ground” by high US military officials and Jeffrey Goldberg, a journalist from the New Yorker.

An article in El Deber, a Bolivian newspaper (available here in English), states that the new US military base in Paraguay is 200 kilometers from the border of Bolivia, near Tarija, home to Bolivia’s largest gas reserves.

According to El Deber, “the base will permit the landing of Galaxy airplanes and heavy armaments. Already 400 Marines have arrived but the base is prepared to house 16,000 military troops. The Paraguayan Congress approved the entrance of US Troops in this country, with immunity, right of free transit and permanence for its soldiers until December 2006, automatically extendable. This insinuates that the US, from this base, could control the Bolivian Natural Gas Reserves, especially the "La vertiente" fields, one of the largest in the World.”

Various articles from Prensa Latina confirm these reports. In an article published July 1st, the press agency explains that “The Paraguayan government opened its doors to a US military contingent comprised of planes, weapons, equipment and ammunition, which arrived in Paraguay after the National Congress granted immunity to US soldiers.”

On July 8th, another report from Prensa Latina stated that “Paraguay has denied rumors on the possible creation of a US military base in its territory, coinciding with the arrival of 500,000 GIs for joint maneuvers. A note from the Paraguayan Defense and Foreign Affairs Ministries stated the country did not sign any agreement with the United States to create a military base in this territory.”

On July 11th, Prensa Latina published another article saying, “Five hundred US soldiers entered Paraguayan territory on July 1, and the Paraguayan Congress has granted immunity to US soldiers, similar to diplomatic immunity, until they conclude their mission on December 31, 2006…Colonel Elio Flores, Head of Social Communication of the Paraguayan Armed Forces, said the maneuvers would last a month, and that 65 officials would take part in instruction to fight terrorism and drug-trafficking.”

A statement issued from the US Embassy in Paraguay explained the reports about a US-Paraguayan military cooperation are “not true and have absolutely no basis in fact…The truth about some of the more ridiculous accusations is as follows: a. The U.S. has absolutely no intention of establishing a military base anywhere in Paraguay. b. The U.S. has no intention to station soldiers for a lengthy period in Paraguay.”

According to a Latin American Weekly Report from Latinnews.com on July 12th, the story of a new US base in Paraguay is a rumor which “started when a correspondent from the Argentine news agency Argenpress misinterpreted an official Paraguayan communiqué following the senate's 28 June authorization for US troops to enter the country. This covered a series of military cooperation activities which will involve, in all, 204 members of the US military, who will turn up in batches ranging in size from 10 to 32 soldiers between June 2005 and December 2006. The first group, seven strong, arrived in Asunción on 3 July to run a course on counterinsurgency and antidrug operations. The second, due on 24 July, is a contingent of military medics which will provide medical assistance in the eastern department of Canindeyú.”

This last bit of news sounds like business as usual, far from the initial conspiracy theory floating around the net. But, you never know. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for more updates. If anyone else has any news on this, please email me:
ben@upsidedownworld.org