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 Gonzalez.
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, which authorized the US to use Colombian bases and civilian installations for “full spectrum military operations” throughout South America, 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.
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.