COLOMBIAN INCURSION INTO ECUADOR KILLS 20, SPURS STRONG RESPONSE BY REGION

Last weekend, the Colombian government led a military attack on the FARC in Ecuadorean territory, killing more than 20 persons including a key FARC negotiator involved in recent hostage releases. Since then, most news coverage has focused on the reactions of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and to a lesser extent Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, excluding the actions of the Colombian military and its president.

Colombia’s raid in Ecuador killed Raul Reyes, the FARC’s second-in-command and a historical actor in efforts for peace. He had been working toward a humanitarian accord brokered by President Chavez and was in the process of negotiating the release of 12 more hostages — including ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt — with the French government. His death comes shortly after hostage negotiations brokered by Chavez yielded the release of a total of 6 Colombian citizens. Many anaylsts suggest that this most recent action by the Colombian government was meant to bring an abrupt halt to future bids for peace.

Following the bombing, Ecuador and Venezuela both recalled their diplomats from Colombia and stationed troops along their borders. Considering that Venezuela has been accused of harboring the FARC by the U.S. and Colombia, it seemed a justifiable preventative move. To date, Venezuela has moved 10 batallions to the border, totalling about 9,000 troops. To hear more on this debate you can listen to or watch the Jim Lehrer News Hour special on this on our website at: www.veninfo.org

After the aerial attack, 60 Colombian ground troops further violated Ecuador’s sovereignty and raided the rebel camp, according to President Correa in Ecuador. He called this ‘unacceptable aggression.’ President Uribe then alleged that evidence was found at the site — on still intact computers — indicating payment by Chavez to the FARC. To date, no verifiable proof has been released. The Miami Herald recognized today that ‘There was no independent verification of the documents.’ The AP also reported that ‘the Colombian military provided no proof of payment.’ Yet, the press has proceeded to report this news as though it is fact. The Venezuelan government has consistently denied the accusations, calling them ‘laughable.’

Tensions were brought to an all time high early this week when Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused President Chavez of supporting ‘genocide,’ citing the alleged funding to the FARC that still remains to be proven. The Colombian president now plans to bring Chavez before the International Criminal Court. While this move makes for great headlines, it does not accurately depict what has been occurring in Colombia and the region in the last few decades, nor the actors that have been involved.

OAS, REGIONAL LEADERS & HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS QUESTION
COLOMBIA’S ACTIONS

Yesterday, at a special session of the OAS, Ecuador asked countries to condemn the Colombian raid on its territory and demand an investigation. Those who questioned the Colombian incursion include Italy, France, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Mexico and Venezuela. France’s foreign minister said, ‘It is not good news that Reyes, the man to whom we talked and we had contact, has been killed.’ On the other hand, in the U.S., President Bush said he supports Colombia unconditionally and used the opportunity to push the US-Colombia free trade agreement.

U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, sent a letter calling on the OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza and Permanent Council Chairman Cornelius Smith to send a high-level delegation to the Andean region to negotiate a reduction in tensions between Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. The letter ? signed by a bipartisan group of 14 House members ? also calls on the OAS to put in place a better process of crisis communication between the three governments. The letter fails to condemn the Colombian government for their violation of international treaties.

According to the Latin American Association for Human Rights (ALDHU), an international NGO based in Ecuador that works with over 20 nations, the attacks were ‘at odds with the most elemental principles of International Humanitarian Law.’ Juan de Dios Parra, the general secretary of ALDHU, called the events an ‘invasion’ and a ‘massacre’ which ‘violated all the international norms regulating the respect for borders.’ Colombian human rights groups also opposed the actions of the Uribe government and said it should be held accountable for what Human Rights Watch has called ‘one of the worst human rights records in the world.’

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Contact your Congressional Representatives in the House and Senate and ask them to:

– Condemn the illegal actions of the Colombian government in Ecuador, which endangers the entire Andean Region.

– Demand that Colombia take a politically negotiated path toward peace in the region. No more U.S. military funding for Colombia.

To find out who represents you in Congress, please type your address in at: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/index.html

– Write to your local news outlets to set the record straight on the current situation in the Andean Region.

– Join tomorrow’s actions for ‘Peace in Colombia and the Andean Region’ by participating in local actions across the U.S. For more information go to: http://soaw.org/article.php?id=1664

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