BOGOTA – A heckler interrupted Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s speech opening the Bogota book fair, urging him to reconsider plans to give U.S. troops access to Colombian military bases.
The heckler urged Uribe to promote unity in the region, referring to the displeasure of several Latin American governments with the proposal to allow the United States use of up to seven bases in Colombia to combat drug trafficking and terrorism.
Uribe told police seeking to remove the heckler to give him a chance to speak.
After the man had spoken, Uribe defended the plan by telling the audience “you’re in a country that is concerned with the security of its citizens ... it is security that guarantees liberty.”
Among those in attendance for Uribe’s speech was Mexican President Felipe Calderon, whose country is guest of honor at this year’s fair. Calderon traveled to Colombia to discuss strategies for battling drug trafficking and terrorism with Uribe.
The proposed 10-year lease agreement has sparked harsh criticism from left-wing governments in Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia and also caused concern in Brazil and Chile.
Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez – who was briefly ousted in a 2002 coup, which he claims the U.S. government supported – says the base deal represents a threat to his country and could spark a war in the region.
Colombia, however, contends Venezuela has nothing to fear and maintains the agreement will bolster the fight against drug trafficking and terrorist activity and is necessary after Ecuador ended a lease allowing U.S. access to a base in that country. EFE