Looking Elsewhere

US Southern Command is looking into potential locations outside of Ecuador at which it could establish a forward operating location for continuing its unarmed overhead counter-narcotics surveillance operations of the Eastern Pacific, Navy Adm. James E. Stavridis, SOUTHCOM’s commander, told lawmakers April 15. The US military currently has rights to use a portion of Eloy Alfaro Air Force Base in Manta, Ecuador, for these missions under the terms of a 10-year lease signed in 1999. However, the lease expires in November 2009 and “the current president of Ecuador, President Correa, has said on several occasions that he does not intend to renew that lease,” Stavridis told the House Appropriations military construction, veterans affairs, and related agencies subcommittee. While the US government is “attempting to convince our partners in Ecuador to renew the lease,” it is also “talking to some of our other friends and allies in the region,” the admiral said. “I have every reason to believe that other friends and allies in the region will provide us support,” if necessary. In addition to FOL Manta, SOUTHCOM has small-footprint presences in El Salvador and on the Dutch-owned island of Curacao, Stavridis said. Like Manta, “these are really nothing more than a couple of hangars, a maintenance building, and access to an air strip,” he said.