August 4, 2001
Narco News 2001
By Peter Gorman
coastal airbase at Manta is undergoing an overhaul aimed at making
it the center of the US's military operations in the region.
At the same time funds are being poured into the country to shore
up its border with Colombia. Once again, though, Plan Colombia
shows itself to really be about oil, not eliminating cocaine
ECUADOR: As Plan Colombia/The Andean
Initiative continues to expand, so does the role of Ecuador.
The tiny country in South America's northwest is gearing up to
play a pivotal part not only in containing FARC rebels at the
Ecuadorian/Colombian border, but also to become the hub of US
military operations for the region. The coastal airbase at Manta
in the midst of being refurbished and outfitted with $18.4 million
in new hangars, housing for American military troops and advisors,
and maintenance facilities and an operations building to oversee
the aerial surveillance hardware which will be utilized there.
Additionally, plans are underway to lengthen Manta's runway in
September to accommodate two large Airborne Warning and Control
System (AWAC) planes and two KC-135 refueling aircraft simultaneously.
The US Southern Command, which operates
out of Miami and runs American military operations in Latin America,
said it would also deploy two giant C-130 transport planes, two
US Coast Guard P-3's, and one or two Navy P-3 aircraft-outfitted
like the one that made an emergency landing in China-at Manta
as well. The State Department has promised that despite the expansion,
the US will not exceed the number of military and adjunct personnel
agreed on in the 1999 agreement for the use of Manta, which was
put at a maximum of 400.
In addition to the expansion at Manta,
the US is providing $20 million to Ecuador to bolster the security
on its border with Colombia, a figure that is expected to rise
to $76 million in 2002. Although the monies have been given to
Ecuador ostensibly to prevent Colombian rebels or coca growers
from crossing into Ecuador-as well as to provide development
seed money to the locals living there-it probably has more to
do with a new oil pipeline being constructed there.
The pipeline's construction is planned
to begin in August and is expected to more than double Ecuador's
oil production within three years, according to Ecuador's Energy
Minister Pablo Teran. The pipeline will carry heavy crude oil
about 300 miles from oil wells in the Amazon jungle to the port
of Balao, near the Colombian border. It will have a capacity
of 450,000 barrels per day. Perez Companc of Argentina has already
contracted to use part of it and the US-based Occidental has
said it will spend more than $1 billion to expand its jungle
oilfields once the pipeline is in place.
Environmentalists have objected to the
pipeline but Ecuador's President Gustavo Noboa has told them
"I'm not going to allow it [pipeline interference]. No one
is going to screw the country."
As luck would have it, the pipeline is
expected to traverse regions that include traditional lands of
indigenous peoples. When Plan Colombia gets into full swing,
expect that the pipeline area is suddenly thought to be under
threat by Colombian FARC or ELN rebels and becomes a key region
to be cleared of "undesirables," which would eliminate
opposition to both the pipeline and Occidental's oil field expansion.
Pipeline to the