Chavez, Morales call for anti-bases protests

Issue 

Bolivian President Evo Morales recalled on September 13 that, as leader of the coca growers of the Chapare region, he had been "a permanent victim" of the US military presence in his country. Morales said that "thanks to the consciousness of the Bolivian people, this has finished".

Speaking in front of 6000 people at a rally in Spain, Morales said "our constitution, approved by the Bolivian people, does not allow foreign military bases, much less US bases".

He said: "In Latin America, wherever there is US military bases, there are military coups. They do not guarantee peace, they do not guarantee democracy."

Morales was the victim of a coup attempt in September 2008, during which his government expelled the US ambassador collaborating with the right-wing coup plotters.

Morales urged European and global social movements to mobilise to "help us put an end to [foreign] military bases in Latin America".

Morales comments come in the midst of the continent-wide polemic provoked by the announcement of a US-Colombia agreement to establish five new US military bases in Colombia.

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo said the proposed large presence of US soldiers in Colombia "is highly questioned" in the region. On September 17, Lugo said his government would veto a humanitarian mission by 500 US soldiers scheduled to visit Paraguay next year.

The following day, the US military finally handed back the Manta air base in Ecuador, which the US had run for 10 years, to the Ecuadorian government. The termination of the US contract is in line with Ecuador's new constitution, which bans foreign military bases.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who has spearheaded the campaign against the proposed US bases, warned in August that "winds of war are blowing in the region". The previous day, Colombia refused to guarantee the bases would not be used to conspire against neighboring countries.

Chavez said on September 16 that, "if there is any guarantee, it is that they will use these military bases against us".

"I have no doubt about this, that is why what we have to prepare ourselves ... to defend this homeland."

Venezuela shares a 2219 kilometre border with Colombia, whose government advocates a policy of "preemptive strikes".

Violations of Venezuela's and Ecuador's sovereignty by Colombia have included the infiltration of Venezuela bylarge contingents of Colombian paramilitaries, with the consent and coordination of sections of the Colombian state, and Colombia's March 2008 bombing of Ecuadorian territory.

The US also funds the right-wing opposition in Venezuela and supported an attempted military coup in 2002.

The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), of which Chavez is president, has launched an offensive against the installation of US bases in Colombia.

This includes a 50,000 strong mobilisation in Caracas as part of a range of actions held across Venezuela and the world over September 5-6.

These were the first of a series of mobilisations the PSUV has scheduled for the rest of the year.

An international gathering of left parties in Caracas has been organised for the end of October to coordinate a strategy against the US offensive, which includes the coup against the elected government of Manuel Zelaya in Honduras.

Alongside the marches, assemblies were held across the country to promote the creation of workplace units of the PSUV, or "worker patrols". The aim is to organise PSUV-affiliated workers into patrols of 10 to 20 people within a workplace as part of incorporating workers into the still-forming party.

Representatives of the worker patrols, along with the territorial patrols launched in August, have discussed plans to incorporate into the National Bolivarian Militia — to prepare the people to defend their revolution in arms against any potential aggression.