Earlier this month, there was a fast moving news story in Latin America about the American troops in Mariscal Estigarribia, Paraguay, a town in the desolate Chaco desert. As the story grew, during the first week of July, it evolved into the description of an air strip out in the desert capable of handling B-52s and heavy American transports. Word had it that some 16,000 American troops were moving in. The reason for all this American military activity was reported as U.S. interest in natural gas deposits across the border in Bolivia. Yeah, thats the ticket.
Eventually, some reporters checked with government officials, and flew out into the Chaco desert to see for themselves. Naturally, there was no there there. What was there was an air freight base being built by a Russian firm. There were American troops in Paraguay. Seven (as in 7) had arrived in the capital on July 3rd, to conduct a training course on counterinsurgency and anti-drug operations. A second small group of will arrive on July 24th, to do medical work in eastern Paraguay. A total of 204 American troops will be visiting Paraguay, in groups no larger than 32, between July and December, 2005. These are all training missions of one kind or another.
Wild rumors about nefarious American military operations have always been popular in Latin America, but the strident efforts to paint the liberation of Iraq as another conquest by evil imperialists has got reporters fired up and ready to take any rumor the extra mile.