Japan Peace Conference 2007
Member of the No Bases International Network, the No Bases Coalition -
Ecuador and the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission (CEDHU)
NO FOREIGN MILITARY BASES, A COMMITMENT TO PEACE
Companros and companeras:
I come from Ecuador, in Latin America, to bring greetings to all of you and to the struggles that gather us today at the Japanese Peace Conference. I come with a message of peace and solidarity from the No Bases International Network, the No Bases Coalition in Ecuador and the Ecumenical Human Rights Commission.
I have prepared a paper that highlights key elements in the US military strategy and its impacts in Ecuador, particularly in Manta, where a military base is located. I will also share with you the experience of local, national and regional struggles against military bases and against militarism in general. Finally, I will speak about some work priorities agreed on by several peace movements at the International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, held in Ecuador on March 2007.
1. US military strategy and the policy of military alliances: dangers, problems and contradictions
The US dependence on foreign oil is on the rise because of the growing energy demand by the largest consumer society in the world. By 2020, the US will import 66 per cent of overall world oil production.
The focus of US foreign policy and its military strategy are closely related to its energy policy, hence its interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. The US defence policy has put behind nuclear deterrence and the atomic threat, and now aims to have an army that can fight simultaneously on several military fronts. To achieve this goal, the US must build up enemies, watch them, and threaten them. It must also protect and strengthen all information networks, and use all available technology to coordinate operations that can deliver accurate strikes. Soldiers are expected to be trained for these new scenarios. The US also needs to improve all its current available arsenal and train necessary human resources to prevail with its strategic and precision weapons.
Another crucial factor in this strategy is fear. The idea is that of creating a situation characterised by global insecurity, and persuading the world that terrorism is a common enemy. But this is not true. There are global problems that have been caused by the empire itself, such as global warming, whilst countries in the South have urgent and real problems to deal with, such as hunger, lack of access to health services, education, and basic infrastructure, amongst others.
As a result, the United States of America has become a rogue state. A state that believes it has the legitimacy to forcefully change any government it dislikes in any country. A state that creates centres to manipulate world public opinion, to spread lies. A state that ignores international institutions whenever it deems convenient, as is the case with the International Criminal Court, and that sabotages agreements for the planetﾕs preservation, such as the Kyoto Protocol, despite being the world's largest polluter. A state that uses torture, as exemplified by Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.
The United States is the only country in the world that has bombed civil populations in dozens of countries in four different continents. Its peculiar love for freedom often transforms itself into "smart bombs" that devastate towns, and into cluster bombs that only leave a trail of grief and destruction. The United States seeks the unilateral disarmament of the rest of the world, while expecting to keep increasing its own military power. It does not seek peace - it demands submission amidst the most terrible impunity.2
If we agree on the idea that the US is an empire, then it does not have allies, but vassals. Military alliances must therefore be understood in this sense.
The international instruments that allow the establishment of military policy are, on the one hand, financial tools - concentrated in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and regional development banks - and, on the other, military alliances such as NATO, the Pact against International Terrorism, the Asian Defense Treaty, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), and several bilateral agreements. At the same time, the role and legitimacy of institutions such as the United Nations and the Organisation of American States has been eroded. Countries that oppose the US strategy are threatened with marginalisation if they do not accept the US conditions, and even run the risk of being classified as enemies. It has recently been suggested that all countries that have signed the International Criminal Court Treaty will not be considered for the sale of military munitions and supplies.
The US has created a false dilemma between human rights and security, because all rights enshrined in international treaties, such as the right to life or the right to not being tortured and to having a fair trial, are absolute and must be respected at all times, even in situations of public emergency. Human rights are not a hindrance to security, but the key to achieve it.
The US government is threatening all achievements in the field of human rights as well as harmony in international relationships, it is militarising its country and the world, and it is transforming its administration into a police state with unpredictable consequences.
2. The case of Ecuador: impact of the US military base in Manta
In Latin America, there are three Forward Operating Locations (FOL): El Salvador, Curaco (in the Caribbean), and Manta (in Ecuador). These outposts were established to replace a base in Panama, which was handed back to the Panamanian authorities in 1999. The operations base is located in Key West, Florida, under the US Southern Command.
In 1999, Ecuador and the US signed a 10-year agreement for the establishment of a FOL in the Ecuadorian Air Force base in Manta, where the US would conduct activities focused on gathering intelligence information and the war against drug trafficking in the region.
Nevertheless, since the agreement came into effect eight years ago, the US military operations in Manta have also targeted boats with migrants that were leaving the Ecuadorian coast, and local fishermen who have suffered at least 45 boardings by US military ships (even if, according to the official agreement, only the Ecuadorian Navy has the authority to undertake this kind of operations). Another indirect impact of the US military presence affects women and their bodies: the establishment of the military base has increased the number of night clubs and sex work, whose victims are girls and women.
Besides immunity, the US troops and personnel in the Manta base have amongst other privileges, tariff exemptions, the ability to import goods and services tax free, the freedom not to pay any taxes, and to enter without visas and passports.
The Manta base hosts aircraft such as the E3 AWACS, the P-3 Orion, and the KC-135 Stratotanker for air, sea and land surveillance. The P-3 Orion, for example, depending on specific needs, can become a bomb and missile carrier. These airplanes can also fly over the sea and the coast in the Eastern Pacific and the Caribbean up to Florida. The base radars also allow the Americans to gather live intelligence information.
Since the agreement was signed, social and human rights organisations in Ecuador have denounced that one of the hidden aims of the Manta base is to give support for the implementation of Plan Colombia, which would entail regionalising the Colombian armed conflict. The FOL commander in Manta, Javier Delucca, said in August 2006: ﾒManta is very important within Plan Colombia. We are very well located to operate in that areaﾓ. In March 2007, he also declared: "We are not flying over Ecuadorian soil, but we are flying over Colombia, in coordination with a Colombian special military unit."
The establishment of the Manta base is linked to the continuous and increasingly serious incidents led by the Colombian army in the Northern Ecuadorian border, which have resulted in dead and wounded Ecuadorian citizens, hundreds of Colombian refugees in the border provinces of Ecuador, severe damage to the populationﾕs health and the environment because of aerial fumigations with glyphosate, and a spread of violence in the area.
There have also been warnings about the presence of companies who are hiring mercenaries. The report on Ecuador written by the UN Working Group about the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination recommended that the Ecuadorian government, amongst others, takes the following measure: "Complete promptly the investigations surrounding the PMSC [private military security company] 'Epi Security and Investigations'."
Besides EPI Security, we also find Dyncorp, the largest beneficiary of US military contracts for private military services over the last 50 years, and world-renowned for being the largest mercenary company. Dyncorp was hired by the Manta base to operate in the fields of air traffic control, civil engineering, logistic support, fire control, security, health coverage, accommodation and food services, etc. Dyncorp is also in charge of fumigation and surveillance tasks in Colombia.
The presence of the US army in Ecuador is not limited to the Manta base, which hosts an average of 300 troops. According to the US State Department: "Ecuador is the second country in the region, after Colombia, with the largest presence of US troops." Ecuador is used as a military training ground in provinces such as Esmeraldas and Orellana.
According to the US Embassy in Ecuador, the Manta base injects an annual figure of US$ 6,5 million into the local economy, but this budget is allocated based on the operational costs derived from the missions undertaken by the military staff in the base. Therefore, far from having boosted development in Manta, the base has resulted in farmers losing their lands and fishermen losing their boats.
During the International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases held in Quito and Manta in March 2007, the US Embassy in Ecuador launched a media campaign to highlight the ﾔsuccess' in drug interdiction operations. According to the US army, interdiction activities this year have been the most significant since 1999.
The government led by president Rafael Correa thinks that the US military presence does not benefit Ecuador and undermines its sovereignty, and it has declared it will not renew the current agreement, which will expire in November 2009. Sovereignty and peace are seriously threatened by the presence of US troops on Ecuadorian soil.
3. Anti-bases and peace movements in Ecuador and the region
In Latin America, movements are mobilising on several fronts. Besides leading anti-militarism and anti-bases campaigns, movements are opposing free trade agreements with the US and Europe, the privatisation of natural resources (mainly water and the construction of giant hydroelectric dams), and the impacts of mining and oil activities, to name but a few. The issue that probably demands a united front of many forces is the construction of mega-projects such as the South American Regional Infrastructure Integration Initiative (IIRSA), which seeks to create axes of transit which crisscross the continent for the extraction of natural resources, and which could potentially be used for troop flows.
Latin American movements also have other priorities, such as launching a campaign on the impending closure of the FOL in Ecuador and ensuring that another FOL is not established in the region; launching a campaign so that governments withdraw their troops from Haiti along with solidarity campaigns with the Haitian people; starting legal and lobbying efforts for the return of lands and goods, and for the compensation of populations affected by military bases and foreign troops; to boost the campaign for the closure of the School of the Americas, where Latin American troops are trained; reporting and denouncing the impacts of Plan Colombia on civil populations and organising an international observer mission in that country; opposing the establishment of military forces on the border of Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina; and boosting the campaign for the closure of the Guantanamo prison, well known for its serious human rights violations, including torture.
In Ecuador, the political juncture is certainly favourable to social movements, though it is impossible to foresee how long it will last. There are positive statements and proposals, such as the Strategic Plan, Planex 2020, a document issued by the Foreign Affairs Ministry and agreed on by all social forces declaring Ecuador a country for peace that will not host foreign troops. There is also Plan Ecuador, the Ecuadorian alternative to Plan Colombia, stating as its main principles: peace and cooperation as a system of co-existence among states, the rejection of foreign aggression, the principle of non-intervention in other countries' internal affairs, and equality of sovereignty in relationships with neighbouring countries.
In Manta, the population has gradually joined the struggle against the military base. Civil mobilisation was in the beginning neutralised by promises of economic prosperity. Nevertheless, against the background of the base's destructive impacts, and thanks to the work of local and national organisations, awareness on this issue has risen and has resulted in specific actions to reflect on and denounce abuses.
Organisations such as the Manabi Farmers Organisation (UPOCAM), the Tohal
The urgent need to prevent the agreement being renewed in 2009 led to the establishment of the No Bases Coalition - Ecuador, an alliance between national human rights organisations and local social movements who cooperate to get more visibility. One of its aims is to link the local struggle for the closure of the Manta base with the wider global struggle against foreign military bases. The International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, held in Ecuador on 5-9 March 2007, was a key step for the national and international network against bases.
The No Bases Coalition - Ecuador has submitted a proposal before the special commission that will prepare a draft constitution for the National Constituent Assembly that will take place in November. The proposal seeks to include the following paragraph in the Constitution, under the "fundamental sovereignty principles" section:
"Ecuador is a land of peace and, pursuant to its sovereignty, will not host foreign military bases or troops, and will not adopt any agreement that implies other forms of foreign military presence. Ecuador will not militarily engage in other countries' conflicts, be it unilaterally or in coordination with other states. It will not undertake military practices or exercises with other states. "
The proposal was signed by 16 local and national organisations. Before the National Constituent Assembly takes place, the No Bases Coalition - Ecuador is actively working on raising public awareness to guarantee that the new Constitution will include the whole of the proposed text.
4. The significance and perspective of international cooperation and solidarity amongst movements on the basis of the results and experiences of the International No Bases Conference
We feel the grief, the death and the tears in Ecuador, Henoko, Afghanistan, Uganda, or Greece as our own, because every abuse is committed against humanity. Amidst the death represented by war, we are only left with solidarity amongst human beings and between peace and justice movements. That is our strength and what gives sense to our cooperation in solidarity.
After the International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases, we became fully aware of the need to come together in our struggle for justice, peace, the self-determination of peoples, and environmental sustainability; and to work on strengthening the No Bases International Network to denounce the impacts of military bases, to support local struggles that pursue the closure of bases and to prevent the establishment of new bases.
The strategic aims of the Network are: to strengthen and unite local and global movements against foreign military bases and other forms of military presence; to become a global actor generating common actions and influencing global public opinion; to establish a policy of alliances with similar organisations and networks that work for peace and justice all around the world.
Some of the highlights of our action plan are: developing a global watch organisation to work with academics on the study and public awareness of the impacts of foreign military troops and bases, and anti-bases struggles; political advocacy activities with non-governmental organisations and international institutions such as the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement; and to establish an international convention on the prohibition of foreign military bases.
During the Conference, several resolutions were passed on local and national struggles against foreign military bases (Vicenza in Italy, Colombia, Czech Peace Movement, Asia-Pacific Community).
One of those resolutions dealt with US bases in Japan and Okinawa, and it was presented by the Japanese Peace Committee, that expressed solidarity with Manta and with Japanese municipalities in their local struggles, particularly communities in Okinawa, Yokosuka, and Iwakuni, seriously affected by military bases and other forms of military presence. Today, I am bringing here from Ecuador, and on behalf of the No Bases International Network, our solidarity with all of you.
The biggest challenge lies ahead: opposing impunity without letting up in our struggle. It is urgent to act to reinforce regional and international mechanisms that can oversee the consequences of the 'war on terror'. We must keep on struggling for the establishment of an efficient and independent international justice system. In this context, getting together to coordinate our actions to have an impact on our societies
and the world is vital.
Force is never fair. Our challenge is momentous: to build humanity with justice and peace.
・FINAL DECLARATION OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
・FOR THE ABOLITION OF FOREIGN MILITARY BASES
The Declaration from the International Conference for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases indicates what the Network stands for and its purpose. The final approval was on March 9, 2007 in Manta, Ecuador.
We come together from 40 countries as grassroots activists from groups that promote women's rights, indigenous sovereignty, environmental justice, human rights, and social justice. We come from social movements, peace movements, faith-based organizations, youth organizations, trade unions, and indigenous communities. We come from local, national, and international formations.
United by our struggle for justice, peace, self-determination of peoples and ecological sustainability, we have founded a network animated by the principles of solidarity, equality, openness, and respect for diversity.
Foreign military bases and all other infrastructure used for wars of aggression violate human rights; oppress all people, particularly indigenous peoples, African descendants, women and children; and destroy communities and the environment. They exact immeasurable consequences on the spiritual and psychological wellbeing of humankind. They are instruments of war that entrench militarization, colonialism, imperial policy, patriarchy, and racism. The United States-led illegal invasions and ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were launched from and enabled by such bases. We call for the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from these lands and reject any planned attack against Iran.
We denounce the primary responsibility of the U.S. in the proliferation of foreign military bases, as well as the role of NATO, the European Union and other countries that have or host foreign military bases.
We call for the total abolition of all foreign military bases and all other infrastructure used for wars of aggression, including military operations, maneuvers, trainings, exercises, agreements, weapons in space, military laboratories and other forms of military interventions.
We demand an end to both the construction of new bases and the reinforcement of existing bases; an end to and cleanup of environmental contamination; an end to legal immunity and other privileges of foreign military personnel. We demand integral restauration and full and just compensation for social and environmental damages caused by these bases.
Our first act as an international network is to strengthen Ecuador's commitment to terminate the agreement that permits the U.S. military to use the base in Manta beyond 2009. We commit to remain vigilant to ensure this victory.
We support and stand in solidarity with those who struggle for the abolition of all foreign military bases worldwide.
Foreign Military Bases Out Now! Manta Si! Bases No!