The United States has long sought to expand its military presence around Latin America, including Argentina. There was a period of resistance to the US military in Argentina during the presidencies of both Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández Kirchner (2007-2015). However, upon president Mauricio Macri’s inauguration in December 2015, the Argentine government agreed to allow the US to install two national security bases in both Misiones and Tierra del Fuego, as well as establish joint training exercises between both country’s armed forces.
In 2018, Argentina’s government announced that it would accept a new US military base in the north of the country— near the border with Brazil and Paraguay— as well as allow a greater number of DEA, FBI and US military forces to control drug trafficking and terrorism within Argentine borders.
However, recently there have been a number of controversies over the US military entering Argentina to for special training sessions without authorization of the Senate.
Today, over sixty groups are currently protesting the installation of a new US military base in Neuquén, including social justice organizations, human rights groups, political parties, workers unions, and indigenous Mapuche groups, as well as other activists.
As part of the protest, a caravan was organized in which hundreds of cars travelled to the site where the base will be built, under the banner of “No to the Yankee base in Neuquén.” Representatives of the different organizations have called attention to the controversial fact that the base is officially being called a center for humanitarian aid as opposed to a military base, to avoid answering to the Argentine Congress, which would otherwise be a requirement. This is in spite of a clear US military presence.
Protesters have also emphasized that it is key for Argentina to maintain sovereignty over its own land, and to not begin going down the slippery slope of allowing American troops to come and go from Argentine territory as they please.
The issue has been especially crucial for indigenous Mapuche activists, whose native land has being increasingly threatened and encroached upon by the Argentine government for generations.
“We must be mobilized. We are going through critical moments, but what’s coming is worse,” stated Jorge Nahual, a Mapuche leader. “This policy of inhumane capitalist plunder now has the favor and the support of the whole government.”
The American base will be built by the US military. A 600 square meter warehouse will also be included in the construction, which will be used as an evacuation center in the case of any catastrophe. The total cost is estimated at roughly US $200,000.
Neuquén’s residents, who have criticized the local government for the scarcity and vague nature of the information that it has provided to locals about the base, reportedly did not celebrate Argentina’s independence day on July 9th in protest.
“The statements of government officials in regard to the construction of the new base reveal ignorance and naivety,” stated local representative Mariano Mansilla. “Without a doubt, this puts Neuquén at the center of a geopolitical strategy on the part of the US and its allies. This strategy exists within the frameworks of global war that they are waging over resources, one which is increasingly generating growing tensions around the world.”