By Matthew Owens
United States political and economic hegemony has been waning across the globe in recent years, not least in South America. In an attempt to reverse this trend, President Obama has recently installed a new military base in the Chilean city of Concón, at a cost of half a million dollars to the US taxpayer.
Under the auspices of the United States Southern Command the base is officially concerned with “peacekeeping training”, although some suspect that the training will be directed against the Chilean population, who have been increasingly vocal in their concerns over the direction of travel the country has taken in recent years. For example, Deputy of the Republic Hugo Gutiérrez recently stated that, “The President, who is commander in chief of the Armed Forces, should stop these courses. It is intolerable to have training for the Armed Forces to fight the civilian population.” Of course, the base could not have developed in this way in the first place without the approval of the current Chilean president. Right-wing Billionaire Sebastian Piñera is out of touch with the needs of the Chilean people, a fact which is reflected in his unpopularity which has reached new lows with only 26% giving approval, 66% disapproval. Fundamentally, Piñera has grossly underestimated the desire of the Chilean people for change. Modern Chileans have much greater expectations than they did after Pinochet was removed from power, and are not afraid to get out onto the streets and campaign for these desires. We have seen this most obviously with the anti-capitalist student movement and the ecologically-concerned protests against the Hydroelectric power projects in Aysén. Moreover, although Chile has has made giant strides economically the inequalities in the country today are larger than ever.
In the midst of protests against the base, tellingly, Obama sent Defense Secretary, and ex CIA director, Leon Panetta to smooth things over, saying that the base was, “a training camp operated entirely by Chile“. Nevertheless it remains to be seen whether the Chilean people will tolerate the presence of foreign troops on their soil or not. The recent precedent for such bases is found in Ecuador, where President Correa denied the US a renewal of a lease at the Manta air base saying that,”We can negotiate with the US about a base in Manta, if they let us put a base in Miami”.