Troops Mass At Colombian Borders In Crisis Over Killing Of Rebel




 
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Boots
 
March 3rd, 2008  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Troops Mass At Colombian Borders In Crisis Over Killing Of Rebel


New York Times
March 3, 2008 By Simon Romero
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela and Ecuador mobilized troops to their borders with Colombia on Sunday, intensifying a diplomatic crisis after Colombian forces killed a senior guerrilla leader at a jungle camp in Ecuador.
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.
The killing on Saturday of 17 members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Latin America’s largest insurgency, also generated a fierce diplomatic reaction from Ecuador and Venezuela.
Speaking on television Sunday night, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador called Colombia’s action a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty. He expelled Colombia’s ambassador and withdrew his ambassador from Bogotá.
Mr. Chávez, meanwhile, said he was shutting down Venezuela’s embassy in Colombia.
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.
Mr. Chávez couched his warning by saying he would react in the event of a Colombian raid into Venezuela. He taunted President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, a Bush administration ally, calling him a “mafia boss,” “criminal,” “liar” and “lackey of the empire.”
“If you decide to do this in Venezuela, pal, we’ll send you a few Sukhois,” Mr. Chávez said, referring to the fighter jets Venezuela has recently acquired from Russia.
Mr. Chávez described the slain senior guerrilla, Raúl Reyes, the second most powerful member of the FARC, as “a true revolutionary.” He said he had met with Mr. Reyes on three occasions since the 1990s, offering rare detail into Venezuela’s often murky ties to Colombia’s rebel groups.
Both the FARC and a smaller insurgency, the National Liberation Army, or ELN, operate along the porous border. Movements by uniformed members of both groups have been documented in western Venezuela. The FARC has also been reported to have operated without hindrance in eastern Ecuador.
Colombia’s government kept silent after Mr. Chávez’s threats, as it largely has done since a deterioration of ties between the countries that began in November when Mr. Uribe abruptly withdrew his support for Mr. Chávez’s mediation with the FARC.
But in response to Ecuador’s protest that Colombia had violated its sovereignty, Colombia’s Foreign Ministry apologized Sunday night. Mr. Correa, Ecuador’s president, called the apology a “mockery.”
Strengthening trade links among Andean countries suggest that the tension will soon die down.
Trade between Colombia and Venezuela, for instance, still flourishes despite a hiccup in some industries caused by recent political outbursts. Venezuela even relies now on a natural gas pipeline from Colombia for its extraction of oil around Lake Maracaibo.
 


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