While U.S. communities are struggling to deal with closure of dozens of domestic bases, the U.S. Southern Command proposes to keep four military bases and 5,000 U.S. troops in Panama beyond the year 2000, when the Panama Canal Treaties call for their removal. President Clinton and Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares may discuss keeping bases in Panama when the two presidents meet in Washington on September 7.
Calls and faxes to the National Security Council and the White House are urgently needed to show that broad sectors of the public want the United States to keep its promises and withdraw all our troops from Panama.
The Southern Command proposal was articulated by General Barry McCaffrey and is supported by the Air Force, Navy and Marines. The bases McCaffrey proposes keeping are Howard Air Base, Rodman Naval Station, Fort Sherman and Fort Clayton. Howard and Rodman are used for the U.S.-led "drug war," while Sherman is used for jungle combat training and testing of equipment under tropical conditions. McCaffrey wants to keep the U.S. military in Panama to fight drug trafficking and defend U.S. transit of the Canal in times of war, according to the August 19 edition of La Prensa in Panama.
The Clinton administration has not yet defined its position on the military bases in Panama. The administration's internal discussions are being facilitated by the National Security Council.
"As long as a single U.S. military facility operates in Panama, it will be a symbol of foreign occupation and dependence for all of Latin America," says a statement signed by Catholic Bishops Walter Sullivan and Thomas Gumbleton, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Congressman William Clay and 36 other religious, peace and academic leaders.
Panama is receiving two Army bases on the Caribbean side of the Canal on Saturday, September 2, the first bases to be completely turned over under the Canal Treaties.
Religious leaders and others also call on President Clinton to honor the Canal Treaty's pledge to remove toxic contamination from the U.S. bases in Panama. A letter signed by Dr. Robert Pastor, Clinton's nominee for U.S. ambassador to Panama last year, and more than 40 representatives of peace and religious organizations urges full disclosure of information on base contamination and clean-up of hazards to human health and safety. U.S. military contamination in Panama includes unexploded munitions on firing ranges that have injured and killed Panamanian peasants and children.
The sixteen U.S. military facilities in Panama were used as a platform for U.S. intervention in El Salvador and Nicaragua during the 1980s, and currently are used for surveillance flights over Andean countries and to train Latin American armies. In early August, soldiers from Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador conducted maneuvers on a U.S. air base in Panama, including practice in using computers and exchanging intelligence. U.S. drug policy favors military strategies for combatting international drug trafficking, but these have been ineffective in stemming the availability of illegal drugs in the United States.
The Panama Canal Treaties call for the removal of all U.S. military forces and facilities by the end of 1999, but a rider attached to the Treaties allows for negotiation of a new military base agreement if both nations agree. Senator Jesse Helms and half a dozen other conservative senators introduced a resolution supporting keeping U.S. bases in Panama beyond the year 2000, which was attached to the Senate's foreign aid bill in July.
Please call or send a fax today:
National Security Council
Fax: (202) 456-9130
President Bill Clinton
White House Comment Line: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461
To send a pre-written message to the National Security Council or to President Clinton, call Worldlink at 1-800-357-0326 and ask to send the Canal Treaty fax to Richard Feinberg or President Clinton. The cost of the message is $5, whether billed to you or paid by credit card.
Contact: Fellowship of Reconciliation, John Lindsay-Poland or Andres
(408) 423-9089 (Thur/Fri)
(415) 864-7549 (Mon-Wed)
For more information, contact the Campaign for a Free Panama, Fellowship of Reconciliation, 515 Broadway, Santa Cruz, CA 95060. Tel: (408) 423-1626/423-9089. Fax: (408) 423-8716. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org