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The Collective
Monday, March 3, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

On Saturday I noted that a top FARC commander had been killed in combat, Raúl Reyes (see this post at Plan Colombia and Beyond some details about Reyes and the significance of his death).

When the story first broke, the BBC report I was referencing did not note that Reyes had been killed within the border of Ecuador, which it now notes and has become widespread news. It is not, by the way, a new development that the FARC is operating near to, and sometimes over, the border with Ecuador.1

The attacks also led to the death of 17 other guerrillas (via CNN):

Also killed was Guillermo Enrique Torres, called Julian Conrado, who [Defense Minister Juan Manuel] Santos said was a key ideologist for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Beyond the significance of the killings themselves for the long-term conflict with the FARC, the events of the weekend has sparked responses from Colombia’s neighbors. Via the BBC: Colombia neighbours deploy troops:

Ecuador and Venezuela have moved troops to their borders with Colombia in an escalating row over the killing of a Farc rebel leader in Ecuador.

Ecuador and Venezuela have also both expelled Colombian diplomats.

[...]

The Ecuadorean president also said he was calling for an immediate meeting of the Organization of American States and the Andean Community of Nations.

My initial reaction to all of this is mostly symbolic and done for internal and regional political consumption and that despitethe harsh rhetoric, especially from Chávez, and military escalation is unlikely. As the NYT notes:

President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, whose government has warm ties with the rebel group, threatened Colombia with war and mobilized tank units and fighter jets near the border between the two countries.

[...]

Rhetorically at least, Mr. Chávez’s threat points to one of the tensest moments between Venezuela and Colombia in recent decades. Whether or not the saber-rattling produces conflict, Mr. Chávez stands to benefit from a distraction from social problems here, like food shortages and surging inflation.

One suspects that Ecuadoran President Correa is taking the lead from Chávez on this matter, as Correa has followed in the Chávez mold, after a fashion, as a left-leaning populist with a vague ideology and whose political moves seem most calculated at increased personal power. He has also been dealing with an internal political crisis over the congress and a new constitution since coming to power and a little demonstration of power would be of use to him as well.

Indeed, it is clear that Chávez’s main motivation is primarily for domestic consumption, as Venezuela is a rather long way from Ecuador. And while one could understand the issuing of a warning to Colombia about an incursion into Venezuelan territory (where the FARC have been known to range as well), there is nothing in the Colombian move to suggest the need for a military mobilization by the Venezuelans. 2

Another dynamic here is the ongoing effect of the War on Terror on international relations. Back to the BBC story, we get the following:

Colombia’s foreign minister said he regretted that troops had to cross the border, but said it had been necessary “in the fight against terrorism”.

There is little doubt that the Uribe administration has been one of the most successful in the world (outside of the US) at deploying the rhetoric of the WoT for its own political purposes. 3

Beyond that, however, is the fact that the situation with Ecuador could escalate, as the Colombian government is making serious accusations about collusion between the FARC and the Ecuadoran government (again, back to the BBC):

A spokesman for Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said that during the raid, troops had found documents that provided information that “[Ecuadorean President Correa] has a relationship and commitments with Farc”,

Police commander Gen Oscar Naranjo said one document showed Reyes had met Ecuador’s minister of internal security and that they discussed Mr Correa’s “interest in making official relations with the Farc”.

El Tiempo has the story as well: Vínculos de gobierno ecuatoriano con las Farc denuncia Colombia, y pide explicaciones, which includes a reference to a document that alleges that Correa wished to send his regards to the FARC’s leader, Manuel Marulanda.

This story is, as they say, developing, and could constitute one of the biggest interstate incidences in the region for some time.

Sphere: Related Content

  1. There have been cases of the FARC kidnapping Ecuadorans and there have been Colombian military incursions across the border before, for example see here. []
  2. Indeed, Chávez seems to be looking for things to distract the public of late, including proffering the theory that Simón Bolívar was murdered, and seeking the exhumation of the body to prove it. See NPR: Chavez Seeks to Prove Bolivar Was Murdered. As the NYT noted early last month, he is starting to lose some of his popularity and so standing up to the neighbors, especially neighbors who are friends with the US, could provide a boost. []
  3. Something I discusses a few years back here: Taylor, Steven L. 2005. “Colombia: Democracy Under Duress” in William J. Crotty, ed. Democratic Development and Political Terrorism: The Global Perspectives, Northeastern University Press. []
Previous Related Posts

Filed under: Colombia, Latin America | |

5 Comments

  1. Colombian president has more than 80% of support by the people in Colombia and for the first time in 40 years, people started to believe that the farc could be defeated.
    The farc is the world´s worst terrorist group, since it attacks its own people (Colombian) to protect its narcotraffic lucrative business, having more than 700 Colombian kidnapped (lowest number in years) and being responsible for attacks in small towns just to prove themselves powerful. More than 600 kids have lost legs with mines and thousands of Colombians have suffered awful deaths for money. President Pastrana tried to negociate with farc leaving them a paradise for kidnapping and growing illicit drugs while not a single proposal was reasonable for improving Colombian politics.
    Colombian attack in the Ecuadorian frontier was necessary to continue weakening the farc’s military position and force them to continue demobilizing, which is the only viable negotiation, since they don’t have a political proposal at all.
    Ecuadorians and Venezuelan have always been brothers with Colombians and now Chavez, like following a communist manual is trying to promote hate against Colombians, just to justify his inefficiency leading the economic boom produced by the oil prices in his country.
    The international community should speak out rejecting terrorism and as president Bush said, the countries that harbor it.

    Comment by Juan Buenaventura — Monday, March 3, 2008 @ 9:39 am

  2. Chavez giving millions to FARC, sounds to me like the Columbians are learning from the Americans on how to spread good propaganda, it all looks like BS to me and anyone with any intelligence, to think by some miracle they found computers with that kind of evidence is hilarious at best.
    When they found this computer where there any weapons of mass destruction next to it, this story should be in the Inquirer not CNN.

    Comment by Rob M — Monday, March 3, 2008 @ 6:03 pm

  3. I respect your view, that’s how u see it, well visit latin america and get well informed about the situation, one thing is to comment about it and another is to live in the region as i do, of course have been other incursions of colombian personal into my territory but the goverments of that time have been corrupted by the USA foreign policy puppets, only Goverments like the USA are so prepotent and irrespectful invading other people’s territory but then the irony, that when some of my fellows from latin american go and cross the border to the USA they are consider illegal aliens, we have borders to respect after all, justified or not Colombia didn’t have the right to invade ecuadorian territory, neither USA has the right to be the world police, we’re insane, maybe yes cause of so much opression, exploitation and unjustice, pray to God and ask Him Why we don’t like Imperialist, capitalist, blood suckers? we dont want masters in the world anymore wheather be USA, EU or any other country with thirst of power. Jorge

    Comment by Jorge Guarderas Jr — Monday, March 3, 2008 @ 7:09 pm

  4. Hello all,
    It is funny how people immediately start talking about USA, the topic is not Colombia - Ecuador - Venezuela conflict? How much do we hate usa? why? It is like now all the world is against fighting terrorism, things that used to be good now are bad, and vice versa.
    I lived under terror in my country and I know what it is, that is why I support any action against terrorism. It is very easy to talk or do comments about a subject that we don’t know, isn’t it?
    Like Juan Buenaventura said, Uribe has the support of 80% of the colombian population, so it is time for you guys to wake up and see what is happening in the world.
    Viva la democracia, viva Uribe,

    Comment by karina — Wednesday, March 5, 2008 @ 11:06 am

  5. [...] The CSM notes that On Ecuador’s border, FARC rebels visit often. Indeed, as I noted early on in the confrontation between Colombia and Ecuador, the fact that FARC have been crossing the border into Ecuador is not news. The two major factors that led to this event blowing up to the proportions that it did was the combination of Rafeal Correa’s election in December of 2006 and the high profile death of a major FARC leader. [...]

    Pingback by PoliBlog ™: A Rough Draft of my Thoughts » Speaking of the Colombian-Ecuador Border — Monday, March 10, 2008 @ 9:15 am

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