Remember Manuel Noriega, our man in Panama? Until he wasn’t? Somebody else down south has similar reasons to worry.   The UNASUR summit in Bariloche, Argentina will have to face two grave problems weighing heavily on Latin America: the military coup in Honduras and the militarization of the region as a result of the installation of not one but seven U.S. military bases in Colombia.

Regarding the first problem, UNASUR ought to demand consistency from Barack Obama in his statements of support for a new era of inter-American relations. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions, the coup is a trial balloon intended to test the reactions of the peoples and governments of the region. And that it happened in Honduras is precisely because that is the country most intensely subjected to the ideological influence and political dominance of Washington.

With OAS negotiations having failed, Washington has proceeded to suspend the issuance of visas to Honduran citizens, a very lukewarm measure but an indicator of the fact that the U.S. is taking note of the prevailing political atmosphere in the region. Nevertheless, Obama ought to do much more, and abandon the fallacious argument expressed several days ago when he referred to the contradiction of the critics of imperialism who demand that the U.S. intervene in Honduras. It is “ironic,” Obama said on that occasion, “that the people that were complaining about the U.S. interfering in Latin America are now complaining that we are not interfering enough”.

It is clear that Obama is not well informed about the actions of his military and civilian subordinates, not to mention his intelligence services. But he ought to know, because it is so basic, that the U.S. has been intervening in Honduras since 1903, the year in which for the first time U.S. Marines landed in that country to protect North American interests in the midst of a political crisis. In 1907, on the occasion of war between Honduras and Nicaragua, U.S. troops were stationed for three months in the cities of Trujillo, Ceiba, Puerto Cortes, San Pedro Sula, Laguna, and Choloma. In 1911 and 1912, they repeated the invasions, in the latter case to prevent the expropriation of a railroad in Puerto Cortes. In 1919, 1924, and 1925 imperialist expeditionary forces again invaded Honduras, always under the same pretext   — protect the lives and property of North American citizens residing in the country.

But the largest invasion occurred in 1983 when, under the direction of a sinister figure, Ambassador John Negroponte, a huge base of operations was established from which the U.S. launched its reactionary offensive against the Sandinista government and the Salvadoran Farabundo Marti guerrilla movement. Obama cannot ignore this nefarious history and must know that the coup against Honduran President Zelaya was only possible due to the acquiescence of his government.

What is now being asked is that the U.S. stop its intervention, that it withdraw its support for the coup government (the only thing keeping it in power), and thereby facilitate the return of Zelaya to Tegucigalpa. The White House has at its disposal many economic and financial tools with which to discipline its ally. If it does not do so, it is because it does not want to, and the governments and peoples of Latin America will then reach their own conclusions.  In relation to the second problem – U.S. bases in Colombia – the following must be said.

First, the U.S. empire does not maintain 872 bases and military missions spread across the entire planet so that its troops can experience the delights of multiculturalism or breathe life’s fresh air. It maintains them at enormous cost, as Noam Chomsky has said on numerous occasions, because they are the principle instrument in a plan of global domination comparable only to that which obsessed Adolf Hitler in the 1930s.

To think that those troops and weapons systems are based in Latin America for any reason other than to ensure U.S. territorial and political control of a region that experts consider to be the planet’s richest in terms of natural resources – water, energy, biodiversity, minerals, agriculture, et cetera  — would be unforgivably stupid. These bases are the front-line of a military aggression that may or may not occur today or tomorrow, but will certainly occur when the imperialists consider it convenient.

For this reason, UNASUR must forcefully reject their presence and demand the suspension of the installation of these bases. Furthermore, it should make clear that this is not an “internal matter” of Colombian sovereignty. No one in their right mind can invoke rights of national sovereignty to justify the installation in their territory of troops and military equipment that can only bring destruction and death to its neighbors. During the 1930’s, as Hitler rearmed Germany, the U.S. and its allies screamed to the high heavens, knowing that the next step would be war, and they were right. Why should it be any different now?

Secondly, as long as Uribe is president of Colombia there will be no solution to this problem. Uribe knows, as does the rest of the world, that the U.S. has put together a growing dossier that identifies him as a narcotics trafficker and accomplice to the crimes of the Colombian paramilitaries. In 2004, the National Security Archives released a 1991 document in which the U.S. accused the then-Senator Alvaro Uribe Velez of being one of Colombia’s principal narcotics traffickers, ranking him number 82, just behind Pablo Escobar Gaviria, the head of the Medellin cartel, who ranked number 79. The report, which can be read here, makes clear that the current president of Colombia “was dedicated to collaboration with the Medellin cartel at high government levels. Uribe was connected with a business involved in narcotics activities in the U.S. His father was murdered in Colombia for his connection to narcotics traffickers. Uribe has worked for the Medellin cartel and is a close personal friend of Pablo Escobar Gaviria … (and) was one of the politicians who, from the Senate, have attacked all forms of the extradition treaty.”

As a result, Uribe has no margin of freedom to oppose any demands coming from Washington. His task is to be the empire’s Trojan horse and he knows that if he resists that ignominious role his fate will be no different from that of another Latin American figure, also a president, Manuel Antonio Noriega. Noriega, having completed the mission that the White House had set out for him, was arrested in 1989 after the bloody U.S. invasion of Panama and was condemned to 40 years in prison for his connection with the Medellin cartel.

When Noriega ceased to be useful to the interests of the imperialists, he went in short order from being president to being a prisoner in a U.S. maximum-security cell. This is the mirror into which Uribe looks day and night, and explains his constant tenseness, his lies, and his desperation to be re-elected president of Colombia. At the same time, Uribe is converting that Latin American nation into a U.S. protectorate and himself into a sort of proconsul-for-life of the empire, willing to cast a shadow of despair over an entire continent to spare himself the same fate as his Panamanian counterpart.

Atilio Borón is professor of political theory at the University of Buenos Aires. He is the recipient of the 2009 UNESCO International Jose Marti Award for outstanding contribution to the unity and the integration of Latin America and the Caribbean and to the preservation of their identities, cultural traditions and historical values.

Translation: David Brookbank for ALAI (Latin America in Movement)