Scheduled to start October 25, the jungle maneuvers will take place in the northeastern province of Misiones, near Argentina’s borders with Brazil and Paraguay. Argentine infantry forces quartered in the region of the San Javier mountain will furnish the base of operations. In the event the war games do not go ahead this year, an alternative date of February 2003 has been set.
In early September President Eduardo Duhalde asked the parliament in Buenos Aires for formal authorization for some 200 U.S. soldiers to pitch camp in the northern province between October 25 and November 24.
A group of teachers, employed and unemployed workers, and students in the provincial capital of Posadas, situated right on the Argentine-Paraguayan border, has established a "Misiones commission against the North American intervention" to help organize opposition to the exercises through a petition drive and other activities.
The border region where the exercises are planned to take place is close to Ciudad del Este, home to a large immigrant population from Lebanon and other majority Muslim countries. U.S. officials have alleged that al Qaeda, accused of the September 11 attacks, has influence in the city. One Argentine defense department source said that it was "absurd to connect these maneuvers to U.S. government suspicions about links between al Qaeda with the Islamic Community in Ciudad del Este," according to the Frontera news organization.
The U.S.-led military operation is part of a series of exercises that began in 2000 in Córdoba province.
Last year some 1,500 soldiers from the United States and eight South American countries conducted "peacekeeping" maneuvers in the northern province of Salta--a center of protests against wage cuts, layoffs, and other government and employer attacks. Dubbed "Cabañas 2001," the operation was sponsored by the U.S. Southern Command.
Expanding U.S. military presence
Mindful of the expanding U.S. military presence in Latin America, organized under the guise of combating terrorism and the "war on drugs," opposition deputies in the Argentine parliament denounced the 2001 exercises as components of a U.S. "strategy of aggression aimed at intervening in the internal affairs of Colombia and other Andean nations."
One sticking point between the two governments in the preparation of the exercises is Washington’s demand that Buenos Aires extend a special immunity to the imperialist troops for the duration of the maneuvers. The immunity would guarantee that U.S. forces would not be brought before the newly formed International Criminal Court.
Having forced through a one-year exemption from the European imperialist powers that sponsored the court’s creation, Washington is pressing a number of governments in Europe to sign bilateral agreements accepting its position.
In its pressure campaign, Washington has also targeted the government of Colombia--the recipient of massive U.S. military aid--causing a debate among the country’s politicians.
So far, only the regimes in Israel, Romania, and East Timor have signed such deals.
In a September 4 statement, Argentine foreign minister Carlos Ruckauf rejected Washington’s demand for immunity and said that his government would offer U.S. forces the same guarantees as in previous exercises.
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