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Last updated at 18:16 BST, Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Colombia US deal is unconstitutional

Summary

18 August 2010

One of Colombia's highest courts has ruled that an agreement allowing the United States military access to Colombian bases is unconstitutional. However, the ruling does not necessarily mean US forces have to leave the country.

Reporter:
Jeremy McDermott

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe

Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe

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In a surprise decision, the Constitutional Court has ruled that an agreement signed by former President, Alvaro Uribe, with Washington, allowing the US military access to at least seven bases on Colombian soil, was unconstitutional and therefore invalid.

The US has supplied Colombia with more than $7bn dollars in aid, mainly military, since 2000 and last year negotiated a ten-year agreement to turn this country into the regional hub for the American military.

The court ruling does not mean that the US has to pack up and leave immediately. The government in Bogota has been given a way out. If it can present a bill to congress, which is approved, a new agreement could be valid.

The new president, Juan Manuel Santos, who took office earlier this month, controls more than 70 percent of Congress so should have no problem getting new legislation approved.

However, as it stands, the court ruling will please many of Colombia’s neighbours, foremost among them Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who has stated on repeated occasions, that the US plans to invade his country and take control of the oil reserves, using Colombia.

Jeremy McDermott, BBC News, Medellin

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Vocabulary

military

an army

unconstitutional

contrary to the rules and basic principles of an organisation or government

negotiated

discussed and came to an agreement

to turn this country into

to develop the country

court ruling

official decision of a court

been given a way out

been given an escape or way to avoid a problem

took office

assumed a position of power: in this case, as President

legislation

a collection of laws

foremost

most important

oil reserves

supplies of oil available to be used in the future

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