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Colombia high court suspends US base agreement

The Colombian Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] announced [press release, in Spanish] Tuesday the suspension of a base agreement [text, PDF] between the US and Colombia, stating the agreement must receive congressional approval before it can legally take effect. The agreement, negotiated between the two countries during the administration of former-Colombian president Alvaro Uribe [BBC profile], allows the US military to have access to seven Colombian military bases in order to combat drug trafficking and rebels. The court did not address whether the agreement was legal, but focused on the manner in which it was enacted. They stated that an agreement requiring the country to take on new obligations must be subjected to the same process as the approval of international treaties, which require congressional approval. A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the agreement was filed earlier this year [Telegraph report], arguing that Uribe exceeded his authority by approving the agreement without congressional support. Supporters of the agreement argued that the agreement was an extension of a previous military agreement with the US and therefore did not require congressional approval. President Juan Manuel Santos [official website, in Spanish] is now expected to send the agreement to congress [Reuters report], where his party holds a majority of the seats.

The US and Colombia continue working together to fight the continuing drug trafficking [PBS backgrounder] problem in Colombia. In May 2008, Colombia extradited 14 former militia leaders [JURIST report] suspected of organizing violent massacres and drug smuggling operations to the US to face drug trafficking charges. The guerrilla leaders had surrendered to Colombian authorities under a peace deal in which Uribe suspended warrants for their extradition, but Justice Minister Carlos Holguin told local radio that the leaders had broken the deal by continuing to organize gangs or by refusing to cooperate with government officials. In April 2008, a Colombian court temporarily blocked [JURIST report] the extradition of one such leader, Carlos Mario Jimenez-Naranjo, ruling that it would deny the victims of his crime the chance to seek compensation. The US and Colombia signed an extradition agreement [JURIST report] in 2005 that forces Colombian drug traffickers to face trial in the US.

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