Scandal could overshadow Panetta's trip to Colombia
April 23rd, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Scandal could overshadow Panetta's trip to Colombia

By Chris Lawrence

As the investigation into the prostitution scandal continues to embroil the military and Secret Service, another high-ranking American official is set to visit Colombia this week.

But in his first trip to South America as defense secretary, Leon Panetta will be traveling to the capital of Bogota and trying to avoid having his trip overshadowed by the investigation in Cartagena, the site of President Barack Obama's recent visit where the scandal of misconduct erupted.

Eleven Secret Service members who were in Cartagena to assist with security around the presidential visit are being investigated for allegations that include the hiring of prostitutes.

The trip has been planned for months, and Panetta will also visit Brazil and Chile, Pentagon spokesman George Little said. No special briefings are being given to Panetta's security detail in relation to the recent scandal.

"I don't think anyone needs to be told that they need to conduct themselves in the manner that they should," Little told reporters on Friday. "We expect the highest standards of the U.S. military."

"The secretary is looking to expand security cooperation with three important countries. He sees these three countries as increasingly important on the world stage. It's time for us to enhance our cooperation with all three," Little told reporters last week.

One senior defense official said the trip is designed to expand the range of collaboration between the U.S. military and all three nations. "We'll be discussing new opportunities like cybersecurity," the official says, in addition to traditional assistance such as supporting Colombia's efforts against the guerrilla movement FARC.

A second senior defense official described FARC as "weakened, and getting weaker. They are on the run." About 150 U.S. military trainers are in Colombia, and an additional 150 contractors providing training to Colombia's military.

Defense officials briefed reporters about the upcoming trip with the condition they not be identified.

In the past month, Colombia requested additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance help during a meeting with Gen. Martin Demsey, the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. The Pentagon is reviewing that request, and it will be one of the issues on the table during Panetta's meeting with Colombian Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon.

The first official says another focus of the trip is to help the defense departments of Brazil, Chile and Colombia better support civil authorities.

"You've got the World Cup and the Olympics coming to Brazil. Munich (the 1972 terrorist assault in Germany) happened, and everybody knows it. Anything we can do to make sure terrorist acts don't occur, we'll be grateful to assist Brazil. We can share our expertise in this area," the official said.

The U.S. military will also be looking to these nations for help in other areas of the world, where security is an issue.

"We want to deepen the dialogue on how they can help beyond the Northern Hemisphere, in places like Africa where we have limited resources to build security capacity," the official says. Brazil has deep ties to Africa, and one of the goals of the this trip is to strengthen its ties to U.S. Africa Command and assist with more peacekeeping missions.

The countries can also be of assistance to others within their own region, explained the first Defense official.

"Given the current limited resources for defense, these nations can become security exporters," the official observed, and noted Colombia has trained police in Honduras and Guatemala, as well as more than two dozen Mexican helicopter pilots.

The agenda will also include talks on preparations "for the next time a nation asks for assistance when disaster strikes. We could've done better in Haiti, if we had developed plans for transporting aid and not duplicating efforts beforehand," the second Defense official said.

Although not specifically on the agenda, Panetta is prepared to discuss the situation in Venezuela, including its recent military build-up, its relationship with Iran and the deteriorating health of President Hugo Chavez.

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Vaale

    it should have been ankle irons rhater than platinum parachutes with the level of corrupt practices the previous govt performed, not that the current one has changed anything much for the benefit of the people who want create jobs, and help rebuild our once great little nation and get us back into the top 20 OECD nations again.Why is it Holden that you assume right wingers hate science and knowledge? Is it a blanket hatred? Or is it just a hatred of corrupted scientists and their phoney results?Are you basing your knowledge on the bible belt of America and some of those people having a belief in Creationism, and categorising them as right wingers? Would you consider a muslim capitalist a right winger? Their holy book describes embryology and cell structures and all manner of biological science. Is someone who believes in evolution too intelligent to be a right winger? Are all those capitalists who developed every advancement e.g. medicines, treatments, computers, software, fertilisers, efficiency enhancing or problem solving devices etc. and took them to market for the betterment of mankind whilst earning a buck for their efforts, are they all left wingers because they believed in a piece of science or knowledge, and hence they were obviously too bright to be Right winger creationist Neanderthals?

    May 22, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  2. DON WELSER

    MARTHA STEWART LIED TO A COUPLE OF PLAIN CLOTHES GOVERNMENT SNOOPS AND THE PERSECUTORS VIA THE GOVERNMENT COURTS PUT HER IN JAIL TOO MAKE AN EXAMPLE T O INSTILL FEAR INTO WE THE PEOPLE, BUT THIS SAME GOV AND IT`S GOON SQUAD AGENTS CAN WITHHOLD INFO , COVERUP AND OUTRIGHT LIE TO THE CONGRESS AND THE P.T.B. in our own gov DO NOTHING . YA RIGHT, WE DON`T HAVE DIFFERENT CLASS`S OF CITIZENS .it`s called the haves and the have nots. The BLACK ROBES THAT INTERPET OUR LAW AND THEIR CONTROLERS . WHO WRITE THE RULES TO KEEP US IN LINE. VOTE FOR THE STATUS QUO OR THE RON PAUL REVOLUTION AND THE CONSTITUTION THIS IS OUR REDEMPTION TIME GOOOO FOR IT.

    April 24, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Reply
  3. DON WELSER

    The debate over a presidentia l canidate is a no brainer. IT`S "RON PAUL" or none at all if you want LIBERTY, PEACE and restoration of our once GREAT REPUBLIC via the CONSTITUTION. NO OTHER HAS THE (PROVEN ) record of adherance to the mandates of this GREAT GIFT given us by the founders . 900 MIITARY BASES with troops in 133 FOREIGN SOVERIGN NATIONS has NOT MADE US GREAT NOR LOVED ANID WARMONGERING AT THE BARREL OF A GUN WILL NOT MAKE GOOD FRIENDS OR NEIGHBORS. . IT`S RON PAUL OR ONCE AGAIN THE P.T.B. [the gangsters & banksters]. WILL continue to steal to seize and steal the f ruits of our [& ourgrandchildrens] lifes labors.

    April 24, 2012 at 1:38 am | Reply
  4. alice

    rabbi get over yourself go eat something kosher and you get that blood sugar back in check

    April 23, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Reply
  5. Rabbi

    Israeli secret service would never shame their country.

    What stupid Americans seem not to understand, is that Jews are chosen people.

    We will reap the rewards of our faithful service to Yahweh.

    The goyim of this world should be happy to fight over the scraps that we Jews throw from table.

    Israel will reign supreme over earth, and anybody challenging that assertion will be conquered, with the help of US military.

    You people may not like us Jews, but you WILL learn to fear us.

    If a few of you must die to save a few of us....that's a bargain I can live with. Your own nations agree with me on this.

    Your sacrafices are necessary to ensure the survival of the only democracy in the middle east.

    April 23, 2012 at 6:36 pm | Reply
    • Giant

      Ya, that will make us wanna bleed for your filthy country....

      If it harbors more like you, it can burn....

      April 23, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Reply
  6. BeverlyNC

    We should be outraged the Republican Party has put forth such an unqualified candidate as Mitt Romney. He has no clue on any issue, no solutions, no ideas, and could care less. He thinks he is "entitled" to be President like everything else in his life of handed everything to him. Romney is a liar, a hater of Hispanics, the rights of women, has no "Christian" concern for the poor (even the Catholic Church has called the Ryan budget which Romney endorses, "immoral and not in keeping with the teachings of Jesus".
    Romney does need to be brought up here because he knows nothing about foreign policy and has already insulted Russian leader Medevev who responded negatively to having to ever deal with Romney. Romney is another Republican war monger who was a coward and hid from the Vietnam War in France doing his Mormon "missionary" work suddenly when his number came up. None of his sons have served in the Republican wars either. Republicans spread hate and lies about President Obama and Romney just goes along with it and here we thought he was so "Christian".
    Columbia and the Secret Service issue has nothing to do with President Obama but Romney is lying trying to pull WH employee allegations into it. Romney is a liar not a leader. His presence is an insult to the People who actually work for a living and want a President, want President Obama, who looks out for them as is the job requirement of the oath of Office for President. President Obama is the People's President. Romney is the Corporation's puppet – the non "job creators", the ones who abuse workers with non liveable wages, no benefits and that is even if the jobs are in America.
    Romney is a loser and the nation knows it.

    April 23, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Reply
    • obama policies are foreign

      well lady the millions of americans out of a job would disagree with you.

      April 23, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Reply
      • The REAL Truth.. (not the imposter)

        They are out of work due to the failed Bush policies. We were hemorrhaging some 700,000 jobs a month when Obama took office. Since then we have had a decrease in job loss and an upturn in job gains. 220,000 in Feb alone. There have been some 4+ Million jobs created on Obama's watch. Why is it that the right is so short on FACTS while spouting. It does you no service to display being a hater. Put up some facts on which to carry out a dialogue... if you can have any!

        April 23, 2012 at 3:12 pm |
  7. obama policies are foreign

    lets leave this guy alone , he has nothing to do with this , notice all the people that work for obama looked hopeless and drained , right MRS CLINTON

    April 23, 2012 at 11:49 am | Reply
    • Choad

      I'll bet you beat-off to her wrinkled visage on a daily basis.

      April 23, 2012 at 1:57 pm | Reply
  8. Louisiana Man

    What gall!! The only foreign policy experience MR has is his blatant sheltering billions in offshore and European accounts to avoid paying taxes....

    What a dearth of a scumbag.

    April 23, 2012 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Leemoe

      Are you so blinded with rage against MR not to see that there isn't any reference to MR in this article? Or are you just another Oblamer troll?

      April 23, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Reply

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