Colombian social movements reject US-Colombia military exercises in Pacific Ocean

In a communiqué, the Peoples’ Congress declared that this military action was an attack on the sovereignty and independence of several Latin American countries

July 01, 2024 by Pablo Meriguet
Southern Seas 2024 deployment (Photo via US Southern Command/X)

The Colombian political and social movement the People’s Congress (Congreso de los Pueblos), which brings together dozens of social organizations across sectors and regions of the country, categorically rejected the joint US-Colombia military drills as part of the US Southern Command’s “Southern Seas 2024” operation.

Joint exercises between the US Marines and the Colombian Navy took place from June 29-30, 2024, off the coast of the Cauca Valley in Colombia. There were five coordinated exercises and practices between the two armed forces in the Pacific Ocean. Notably, the US aircraft carrier USS George Washington (one of the largest in the world) was present, which can carry 75 military aircraft and 5,000 people on board, and fire nuclear weapons.

Operation “Southern Seas 2024” began in Mayport base in Jacksonville, Florida, and will engage Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay. According to a US Southern Command report, “Southern Seas 2024 marks the 10th mission to the region since 2007 and the third time involving USS George Washington. The aircraft carrier also conducted Southern Seas 2008 and Southern Seas 2015. Like the previous deployments, Southern Seas 2024 will foster goodwill, strengthen maritime partnerships, counter threats, and build our team.”

In this sense, the US is once again taking the lead in coordinating military exercises in South America, which can be seen as a clear example of the historic influence of the US military on many South American militaries.

The Peoples’ Congress highlighted in its statement that such actions are part of a long history of US interventionism in Colombia, offering supposed support against the country’s internal problems, only to result in civil war, dispossession of territories, poverty, sexual violence and the destruction of national ecosystems.

“The historical presence of military bases, exchanges, and military intelligence is an expression of imperialism that violates our independence and sovereignty, as well as that of the countries of Our America. Clear evidence of this is that Colombia is considered the entry point of Yankee interventionism in the region. This condition threatens national projects and controls ecosystems and natural assets such as the Amazon and the Gorgona, in the framework of green militarization, which is a new cycle of accumulation by dispossession of capital,” continues the communiqué.

Furthermore, the People’s Congress points out the relevance of the US Southern Command and its Commander, Laura Richardson, in the organization of an “imperialist war plan” against any national process that does not align with the orders of US interests, as is the case with the new military intervention in Haiti, the attempted coup d’état in Bolivia, the constant economic and military threat to Venezuela, as well as the economic blockade against Cuba.

The Captain of the Colombian Navy, John Edinson Moreno Mancipe, said that the joint actions consisted of “…different exercises, such as replenishment at sea, naval gunfire and exchange of aircraft on the flight decks. These exercises contribute to strengthening interoperability between the two nations and also to seal the bonds of friendship.”

However, according to the People’s Congress, this type of military cooperation is not intended to strengthen ties of friendship, but rather to promote the submission of South American countries to the imperialist interests of the United States. For this reason, they have demanded that the government of Gustavo Petro stop this type of military action which, according to the communiqué, impedes the self-determination of the peoples and the realization of independent and sovereign national projects. 

“We demand that the Colombian government suspend these types of war exercises, which strengthen the doctrine of intervention in Colombia and all of Our America,” wrote the People’s Congress.