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  • A U.S. soldier leads military men from various countries during a NATO exercise in 2017

    A U.S. soldier leads military men from various countries during a NATO exercise in 2017 | Photo: Reuters

Published 14 November 2018
Opinion

The Uruguayan Senate approved a bill to allow the entrance of 400 U.S. military and civilian personnel during the G20 summit. Uruguay isn't a G20 member.

Uruguay’s Senate approved a temporary bill to allow United States civilian and military troops into the country during the G20 summit, to take place in neighboring Buenos Aires, Argentina. If the House votes in favor, the U.S. contingency would remain in the country between Nov. 26 and Dec. 3.

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Uruguayan Defense Minister Jorge Menendez presented the bill to a Senate committee last week; it was approved by the full body Tuesday. The measure will head to the House of Representatives next week for ratification.

Although the bill was passed unanimously on Tuesday, discussion over the temporary policy was tense. Menendez argued that Uruguay should agree to the U.S. request as part of the South American country’s international agreements. "These agreements commit Uruguay to provide logistical support in certain circumstances," he stated to the Senate.

The Broad Front party Senator Constanza Moreira opposed the bill. "I am against... This is what I call the club of the rich. We do not support rich clubs. Uruguay has nothing to do with the G20. I do not understand why Uruguay is being used as a (military) operations base," she questioned. Uruguay is not a member of the G20.

Senator Juan Castillo of the Communist Party said he’d vote in unity with the Broad Front but was against the measure and the exclusivity of the G20. “I’m against giving logistical help for the G20 summit that is taking place in Buenos Aires, not in Uruguay,” he explained. It “is a select group of countries that choose themselves, it is not an international organization,” Castillo said of the G20 group.

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The bill, which will be debated in the House next Wednesday, includes three articles that authorize eight U.S. army aircraft and 400 civilians and military members to enter Uruguay in order to support President Trump during his participation at the summit that will be held in Argentina between Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.

Menendez and Uruguay’s Foreign Affairs Minister Ariel Bergamino told the Senate defense commission last week that the U.S. military presence will be for a few limited days. However, senators, such as Javier Garcia are concerned this policy will lead to U.S. military overreach in the country as the Trump administration has ramped up its armed presence in several South American countries, such as Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia.

The memory of the U.S. role in Uruguay's 1970s dictatorship that exterminated thousands of its own citizens is also still fresh in the minds of the citizens of the small South American country.   

Garcia from the National Party described the policy as a "blank check.” Addressing he said he was willing to “collaborate with Argentina so that it has the greatest possible security but it (the bill) cannot be confused with writing a blank check" to U.S. military operations. "Military agreements do not supersede the (Uruguayan) Constitution."

The Senate rejected the second article, which would have allowed the Executive to allow foreign military forces to operate in Uruguay without congressional approval.

England and Germany’s head of state have also requested permission to bring military personnel to Uruguay during the Argentine summit.

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