The people of Ecuador are rising up to refound their country as a pluri-national homeland for all. This inspiring movement, with Ecuador's indigenous peoples at its heart, is part of the revolution spreading across the Americas, laying the groundwork for a new, fairer, world. Ecuador Rising aims to bring news and analysis of events unfolding in Ecuador to english speakers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Activists seek abolition of foreign military bases

By Kintto Lucas

Updated Mar 21, 2007,

QUITO (IPS/GIN) - An international network for the abolition of foreign military bases has been created at a conference attended by over 1,000 activists and experts from 30 countries, which opened in Ecuador’s capital city on Mar. 5.

The No Bases Network will coordinate actions against the more than 1,000 military bases worldwide.

Lina Cahuasquì, an activist with the Ecuador No Bases Coalition, told IPS that the No Bases Network will be “a plural, democratic space, linked to the permanent struggles of social organizations for a military-free system that is based on respect, equity, justice and a culture of peace.”

This first international conference of its kind continue through Mar. 9, and aimed to analyze the impact of foreign military bases and local people’s struggles against their existence.

Sessions on the first day were devoted to sharing experiences from each country. Joint strategies for action will also be planned, and on Mar. 8, International Women’s Day, a Women for Peace caravan was scheduled to travel from Quito to the western port of Manta, where the largest U.S. base in South America is located.

On the closing day of the conference, cultural festivals were held in Quito and Manta, and a world solidarity campaign calling for the definitive closure of the Manta base was launched.

Ms. Cahuasquì said that most of the 1,000 foreign military bases on the planet belong to the United States, which has 737 in various countries. Others belong to Russia, China, the United Kingdom and Italy.

“And these do not include secret military bases, like the four operated by the U.S. in Iraq,” she said.

“But the United States doesn’t only have bases in developing countries. It has 81 bases in Germany and 37 in Japan,” she added. In Latin America and the Caribbean, there are 17 U.S. military bases, located in Colombia, Peru, El Salvador, Aruba, Curaçao, Honduras, Ecuador and Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, she noted.

Wilbert van der Zeijden, of the Transnational Institute in the Netherlands, said he wanted the meeting to foster “a broad global campaign” against foreign military presence and bases all over the world.

“If we can’t shut down all the bases, we may at least be able to weaken the U.S. military network which allows them to attack when and where they wish,” he said.

Corazón Fabros Valdez, from the Philippines, is on the International Organizing Committee for the conference. She said she hoped that the Ecuador meeting will consolidate world support for the movement to close the Manta base, and strengthen the government’s resolve to terminate the lease in December 2009, when it expires.

“We saw the importance of international solidarity for achieving success during the struggle against U.S. bases in the Philippines,” she said.

“The Philippines had U.S. military bases for over 100 years, which were used against Vietnam and other nations. Some of the worst effects were violations of human rights and democracy,” said Fabros Valdez.

Ecuador’s new president, Rafael Correa, has already announced that he will not renew the lease of the Manta base. Spokespersons for the George W. Bush administration have intimated that the United States would like to continue using the facilities until 2012.

Manta is Ecuador’s main port, located on the Pacific Ocean approximately 162 miles from Quito.

Herbert Docena, a researcher with Focus on the Global South in the Philippines, also said he hoped that the conference would send a very clear message that people all over the world do not want foreign military bases.

Ms. Cahuasquì spoke of the U.S. base at Vieques, Puerto Rico, as an example of the negative consequences of military bases. “The area was contaminated with heavy metals, chemicals, and even nuclear waste like depleted uranium, with harmful effects on the water, human beings and the environment in general,” she said.

Many bases are touted as centers for cooperation and exchange, but are equipped with hi-tech communications gear and used for espionage, as in New Zealand.

The activists discussed the achievements of their struggle so far, including the case of Italy, where more than 100,000 people took to the streets to demonstrate that they would not accept violations of their national sovereignty.

Another example was the peaceful uprising of the Puerto Rican people to secure the closure of the Vieques base, after 60 years of U.S. military presence.

Ecuador has refused a U.S. proposal to set up another military base on the island of Baltra, in the Galapagos. Panama ousted the U.S. Navy, and Uruguay, Argentina and Brazil have in recent years ceased to participate in joint naval maneuvers with the United States.

Lawmakers from Brazil, Venezuela and European countries are participating at the conference alongside activists, as is the secretary general of the World Peace Council, member of the European Parliament Tobias Pflueger, and Mexican researcher Ana Esther Ceceña. Speakers include Kyle Kajihiro, a staunch defender of the rights of native Hawaiians, environmental justice and demilitarization, and Andrés Thomas, a member of the U.S.-based Democracy Now.

No comments:

Post a Comment