BOGOTA – Colombia's constitutional court Tuesday declared a
US-Colombian accord that gave the US military access to at least seven
Colombian bases to be unconstitutional.
The court ordered the government to submit the agreement to the
Colombian Congress, arguing that it should be executed in the form of an
international treaty that would be subject to congressional approval in
order to comply with constitutional norms.
The court did not address whether the agreement itself was appropriate.
The agreement "is an arrangement which requires the state to take on
new obligations as well as an extension of previous ones and as such
should be handled as an international treaty, that is, subject to
congressional approval," said the court's chief justice Mauricio
The court decided in March to review the agreement after a group of lawyers filed a complaint arguing it was unconstitutional.
The lawsuit claimed the October 2009 military accord was invalid
because it was signed by the government of President Alvaro Uribe
without prior discussion in Congress, as mandated by the constitution.
The military pact, part of a joint effort to counter drug
trafficking and insurgencies, has been denounced by neighboring
Venezuela as US interference in the region, raising tensions between
Bogota and Caracas.
Opponents also accuse Uribe of ignoring the advice of the State
Council -- the highest court on administrative matters -- which also
urged that the congress take up the agreement before it was signed.
The Uribe administration deemed the State Council's opinion non
binding, and said the accord was not new but merely an extension of a
1974 military pact with the United States, and as such required no
legislative oversight, government officials said.
Bogota and Washington last October signed a military pact that
allows US troops to use Colombian bases, drawing fierce criticism from
many Latin American governments who called it an affront to Colombian
and Latin American sovereignty.
In a region in which the United States historically has been the
power player, its partners still are keen to stress that they are not
The United States since 2000 has channeled more than six billion
dollars to Colombia through its Plan Colombia initiative to fight drug
trafficking and insurgencies.