International House of Dan: March 2008

Monday, March 03, 2008

Andean Tensions Mounting, Maybe...

Raul Reyes, one of the leaders of the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), was killed Saturday by Colombian military using a U.S.-made "smart bomb" in Ecuador, near the Colombian border.

Quito denounced the cross-border raid as an invasion of Ecuador's sovereignty, recalling its ambassador from Bogota and expelling the Colombian representative from Quito. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has characterized the Colombian government as being beholden to American interests. Troops from Venezuela and Ecuador gathered along their borders with Colombia Sunday, fanned by increasingly bellicose rhetoric from the leaders of the neighboring Andean nations.

Colombia alleges that it found evidence during the raid of collaboration between the FARC guerrillas and the administration of President Rafael Correa, a charge that Ecuador has denied. Colombia has stated that it does not intend to deploy troops to meet the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian maneuvers along its borders.

In November, Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe, a Bush ally, became critical of Mr. Chavez's role in mediating hostage releases between Colombia and the FARC. Relations between the two nations have remained tense since.

Of course in the past several months, Mssrs. Uribe and Chavez have used their tense relationship to boost their domestic status. In light of this recent history, one could expect the current imbroglio to die down rather than intensify.

Further suggesting de-escalation, all three administrations face serious economic problems at home, problems that stand to be alleviated by increased regional trade. The presidents of Ecuador and Colombia are set to meet at an Andean Community (CAN) summit later this month, ahead of trade talks in April with the EU.

Colombia currently holds the Pro Tempore presidency of the CAN, and has been responsible for organizing preparatory meetings in late February and early March.