US Nears Base-Access Deal

Colombia and the US may be close to concluding an agreement under which the US military would be allowed to use facilities in Colombia from which to carry out unarmed counter-narcotics surveillance activities in the eastern Pacific. The Miami Herald reported Thursday that the negotiations could conclude this weekend, citing Gen. Freddy Padilla, Colombia’s armed forces chief. The US has been in search of a new host nation to grant it access rights to “forward operating locations” for these activities since Ecuador decided not to renew the lease to Eloy Alfaro Air Base in Manta from which US elements had been operating in counter-narcotics roles since 1999. The US is poised to formally hand over facilities at FOL Manta back to Ecuador next month. According to the Herald, US and Colombian officials stress that any facilities to which the US gains access would not become US bases, per se, but rather remain under Colombian control. Press reports began surfacing last month that Colombia was in play as a prospective host.