Saturday, August 1, 2009

Colombia, Ecuador dispute deepens

The frosty relations between Colombia and Ecuador got even frostier on July 6 when Colombian officials and lawyers accused members of Ecuador's government of working for left-wing Colombian guerrillas. 

The accusations arose after a video was released featuring Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander Jorge Briceno (who goes by the alias "Mono Jojoy") claiming the guerrillas gave financial support to the 2006 election campaign of Ecuador's left-wing President Rafael Correa.

Colombia's prosecutor-general, Mario Iguaran, claimed that a former security minister in Correa's government, Gustavo Larrea, and former Correa adviser Jose Chauvin were "emissaries" for the FARC. 

Ecuadorian officials said the video is doctored. Correa called the footage a "sham" and demanded the FARC clarify whether they had funded his campaign in any way.

Correa has appointed a commission to investigate the claims and the origin of the video, which he claimed was part of a right-wing campaign "to destabilise the region's progressive governments". 


"I can also go, now, and get a recording where the paramilitaries say that they financed the campaign of Alvaro Uribe", he added. Correa was alluding to the close connection between Colombian President Uribe and that country's drug-trafficking paramilitaries, which are responsible for grave human rights abuses.

Colombia and Ecuador have been frosty since March 1, 2008, when the Colombian military bombed a FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory. More than 20 people were killed, including civilians. 

Ecuador broke off diplomatic ties in the aftermath, as did Venezuela, which moved troops to Colombia's border. Other Latin American governments united to reject Colombia's bombing of Ecuadorian territory, which was widely seen as provocation in conjunction with the United States.

Ecuador-Colombia relations have remained hostile since. In June, an Ecuadorian court ordered the arrest of former Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel Santos on murder charges over the March 2008 bombing. In July, Ecuador imposed stiff import tariffs on a broad range of Colombian goods.

Correa said that if Colombia repeats its bombing of Ecuadorian territory, Ecuador will respond with military action. 

Combined with Venezuela's July 28 decision to cut diplomatic ties with Colombia over the decision to allow five US military bases on its territory, Ecuador's stance indicates how seriously those governments trying to challenge US domination of the region take provocations from the region's leading US proxy.

This latest dispute follows the announcement that the US air force will shift its operations from Ecuador's Manta air base to Colombia. The lease for the Manta base is due to end this year and Correa has refused to renew it — citing concern over aerial chemical spraying and US involvement in Colombia's 40-year-long civil war. 

The Colombian conflict — heavily funded by the US through Plan Colombia — has seen billions of US dollars poured into military assistance to the Colombian regime under the guise of the "war on drugs". 

The real purpose, however, is the defeat of the left-wing FARC guerrillas, who have until recently occupied nearly half the country. Correa is refusing to let Ecuador be drawn into the conflict.

Plan Colombia also involves spraying the herbicide glyphosate over vast areas of jungle to try to wipe out coca production. 

Much of the spraying has occurred illegally in Ecuador, however, poisoning water tables, destroying rainforest and crops, and causing cancers, birth defects and deaths in the local population.

On March 31, 2008, Ecuador initiated proceedings against Colombia in the International Court of Justice over the spraying.

First published in Green Left Weekly, August 1, 2009

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