Ecuador ‘Allows US Military Planes to Use Galapagos Island Airfield’
(September 21, 2019) — US aircraft will be able to use San Cristobal airport, Ecuador’s defence minister Oswaldo Jarrin has been quoted as saying. They will “fight drug trafficking” under a deal with Ecuador’s government, Mr. Jarrin said.
The reported deal has prompted concerns over the potential impact on the environment and Ecuador’s sovereignty. The aircraft involved include a Boeing 777 and a Lockheed P-3 Orion, Latin American TV network Telesur reports.
The Galapagos Islands, 563 miles (906km) west of continental Ecuador, are a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned worldwide for their unique array of plants and wildlife.
Tourists across the globe travel there to see its biodiversity, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
Legislators in Ecuador’s parliament have called on Mr. Jarrin and environment minister Marcelo Mata to explain the scope of co-operation with the US in the islands.
They have asked them to elaborate on proposals to extend the runway at San Cristobal airport, daily El Universo reports.
Lawmaker Marcela Cevallos said the plan would be alarming for conservationists, it reported.
Opposition congressman Carlos Viteri said the agreement with the US was “unacceptable” and should be prohibited if “it intends to cede an inch of Ecuadorian territory”.
Under Article 5 of Ecuador’s constitution, the country is “a territory of peace” and the “establishment of foreign military bases or foreign facilities for military purposes shall not be allowed”.
Ecuador’s former president Rafael Correa also reacted angrily, tweeting (in Spanish) that the island was “not an aircraft carrier” for the Americans.
Mr. Jarrin assured critics that “there will be no permanence of anyone” on the island.
He said any modifications to the airfield would be paid for by the US, Telesur reported.
“Galapagos is for Ecuador our aircraft carrier, it is our natural carrier, because it assures us permanence, replenishment, interception facilities and it is 1,000 kilometres from our coasts,” he said.
The BBC has contacted the US Department of Defense for comment.
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Proposal to ‘Pave Paradise’ in Galapagos Islands for US Military Airstrip Met With Criticism in Ecuador and Beyond
“Galapagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use.”
(June 17, 2019) — The Galapagos Islands archipelago in Ecuador is one of the most biodiverse regions in the entire world, home to a number of species found nowhere else on the planet, and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
So, naturally, the U.S. military wants to use one of its islands as an airstrip.
Ecuadorian defense minister Oswaldo Jarrín announced President Lenín Moreno’s administration’s decision to allow the Pentagon to expand an existing airfield on San Cristobal Island for U.S. spy planes targeting drug traffickers in comments to Telesur on June 12. The airport is at the southwest end of the island in the city of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno.
According to The Independent, “a U.S. air force Boeing 707 plane carrying radar surveillance and a Lockheed P-3 Orion plane will patrol the Pacific Ocean, using the Galapagos as a launching off point.”
The Ecuadorian National Assembly isn’t sold on the proposal. In a vote on June 13, El Universo reported, 106 of the assembly’s 137 members cleared the way for calling on Jarrín and environmental minister Marcelo Mata to appear before the chamber’s Commission of Sovereignty and International Relations.
Carlos Viteri, an assembly member from the southern region of Sarayacu, Pastaza, and a member of the Revolución Ciudadana party, said that allowing the U.S. to operate off of the airstrip was “vassalage.”
“What is being proposed by the government through the Ministry of Defense is unacceptable,” Viteri told El Universo, “and the fact that it intends to cede an inch of Ecuadorian territory should be prohibited.”
In his remarks, Jarrín said that the Galapagos Islands are a “natural aircraft carrier because it ensures permanence, replenishment, interception facilities, and is 1,000 kilometers from our coasts.”
That aircraft carrier could have an extended landing strip built on it to accommodate U.S. planes. Jarrín said that the Pentagon would pay for any needed “readjustments” to the airfield, raising concerns that Galapagos will be used as a permanent base for the U.S. military—a violation of Ecuador’s constitution, which says in Article Five that “the establishment of foreign military bases or foreign installations for military purposes will not be allowed. In addition, it is prohibited to cede national military bases to foreign armed or security forces.”
“A base means permanence, there will be no permanence,” said Jarrín.
That line of reasoning was dismissed by journalist Ben Norton, who called the decision “another sign of Ecuadorian President Moreno’s total capitulation to neocolonialism.”
Moreno, a right-wing politician, won election in 2017 on a center-left platform but quickly shifted gears away from his predecessor Rafael Correa’s policies—including allowing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to claim asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London—and to the right.
In a tweet, Correa weighed in on the controversy, calling Jarrín a man with a “vassal soul.”
“Galapagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use,” tweeted Correa. “It is an Ecuadorian province, patrimony of the humanity, patriotic ground.”
In a tweet, University of London professor Laleh Khalili tweaked a Joni Mitchell lyric to describe the decision.
“They paved paradise and put up a landing strip,” said Khalili.
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