U.S. military presence in Paraguay

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Will the Bush administration soon be "spreading democracy" in Paraguay?

U.S. secret military operations

"Controversy is raging in Paraguay, where the U.S. military is conducting secretive operations. 500 U.S. troops arrived in the country on July 1st with planes, weapons and ammunition," Toward Freedom's Benjamin Dangl wrote September 15, 2005. "Eyewitness reports prove that an airbase exists in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, which is 200 kilometers from the border with Bolivia and may be utilized by the U.S. military. Officials in Paraguay claim the military operations are routine humanitarian efforts and deny that any plans are underway for a U.S. base. Yet human rights groups in the area are deeply worried. White House officials are using rhetoric about terrorist threats in the tri-border region (where Paraguay, Brazil and Argentina meet) in order to build their case for military operations, in many ways reminiscent to the build up to the invasion of Iraq."

Tri-border region

"Located where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet, the area is home to roughly 20,000 Middle Eastern immigrants—mostly from Lebanon and Syria—and has long been a hotbed for terrorist fundraising, arms and drug trafficking, counterfeiting and money laundering. By moving freely through the region’s porous borders, operatives from the terrorist organizations Hizbollah, Hamas, and according to some reports, al-Qaeda, are able to conduct arms-for-drugs deals with secular Latin American terrorist groups like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and Peru’s Sendero Luminosos (Shining Path). All told, U.S. officials believe that between $10 and $12 billion is funneled through the tri-border region each year, with Hizbollah among the prime beneficiaries," Erick Stakelbeck wrote March 19, 2004, in FrontPageMagazine.com.

Natural Resources

"The tri-border area is home to the Guarani Aquifer, one of the world’s largest reserves of water. Near the Estigarribia airbase are Bolivia’s natural gas reserves, the second largest in Latin America. Political analysts believe U.S. operations in Paraguay are part of a preventative war to control these natural resources and suppress social uprisings in Bolivia," Dangl wrote.

Mariscal Estigarribia airbase

"The Estigarribia airbase was constructed in the 1980s for U.S. technicians hired by the Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner, and is capable of housing 16,000 troops," Dangl wrote. "A journalist writing for the Argentine newspaper Clarin, recently visited the base and reported it to be in perfect condition, capable of handling large military planes. It’s oversized for the Paraguayan air force, which only has a handful of small aircraft. The base has an enormous radar system, huge hangars and an air traffic control tower. The airstrip itself is larger than the one at the international airport in Asuncion, the Paraguayan capital. Near the base is a military camp which has recently grown in size."

Criminal Immunity

"On May 26, 2005 the Paraguayan Senate granted the U.S. troops total immunity from national and International Criminal Court jurisdiction until December 2006. The legislation is automatically extendable. Since December 2004, the U.S. has been pressuring Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela and Paraguay into signing a deal which would grant immunity to U.S. military. The Bush administration threatened to deny the countries up to $24.5 million in economic and military aid if they refused to sign the immunity deal." Dangl wrote.

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