In April 2012, the United States opened a new military training base in Concón, Chile. The US reportedly provided $460,000 for construction of the Fort Aguayo naval base. While US and Chilean officials claim that the base will be used to train Latin American soldiers for peacekeeping missions, a group of twenty human rights organizations expressed concern that training exercises at Fort Aguyao would be “clearly oriented toward the control and repression of the civilian population.” The human rights organizations sent an open letter to Chile’s Defense Minister Andrés Allamand on May 7, 2012.
The base itself features an urban-like set up, complete with buildings and sidewalks, supposedly to prime soldiers for these so-called peacekeeping missions in urban settings. It is a curious setup, considering the student protest movement (a.k.a. the “Chilean Winter”) of 2011-2012, which in many ways resembled the US Occupy Wall Street movement, and which itself has been a vastly underreported issue. During the Chilean student protests, the students occupied empty universities and staged marches and demonstrations. In some instances, police used force to suppress the demonstrators.
Some feel that the new city-like training base is connected with the social movements that have bloomed in Chile during the past year. Critics of the base also argue that the US lacks credibility when it comes to teaching peace, given its extensive involvement in the affairs of Latin American nations in the latter part of the 20th century, and its unrelenting support of brutal dictators in these nations, using the guise of freeing people of communism. Many Chileans, and Latin American peoples in general, want to see the US out of their affairs.
The US currently has about 800 bases worldwide, with 22 in Latin America, including bases in Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama, Paraguay and Peru; naval stations in Aruba and Curaçao; and a “Cooperative Security Location” under construction in the Dominican Republic.
Weekly News Update on the Americas, “Chile: Human Rights Activists Protest New U.S. Base,” UpsideDownWorld.org, May 15, 2012. http://upsidedownworld.org/main/chile-archives-34/3636-chile-human-rights-activists-protest-new-us-base
W.T. Whitney, Jr., “United States adds bases in South America,” People’s World, April 26, 2012, http://peoplesworld.org/united-states-adds-bases-in-south-america/
Student Researcher: Keily Campagna (College of Marin)
Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)