President Hugo Chavez greets supporters in Austria during 2006 visit. A national referendum to accelerate socialist reforms was narrowly defeated on December 2, 2007.
Originally uploaded by Pan-African News Wire File Photos
Ecuador and Venezuela send military reinforcements to their
borders with Colombia
Colombian ambassador expelled from Quito
Venezuelan embassy in Bogotá closed
QUITO-—President Rafael Correa of Ecuador has announced on television his government’s decision to mobilize troops to the border with Colombia and the expulsion of the Carlos Holguín, Bogotá’s ambassador in Quito, in response to the violation of the nation’s sovereignty by that neighboring country.
Correa announced that he is convening the National Security Council today, Monday and has asked for meetings of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) and MERCOSUR in order to address what he described as "the most serious, deceptive and verified aggression that President Uribe has committed against Ecuador."
The Ecuadorian head of state expressed his dissatisfaction with the official Colombian explanation, given today in response to his government’s protest, which stated that Colombia had not violated Ecuadorian sovereignty and had acted in legitimate self-defense. Correa maintained, "At this point an explanation from Colombia is no longer sufficient."
"Ecuadorian territory was bombed and violated by a foreign government," Correa declared, adding that the situation is "grave and unacceptable," as he accused Colombian Armed Forces of using the pretext of an attack on the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC), to carry out a planned aerial attack on Ecuador, thus violating its sovereignty.
"Uribe is lying to the world," the Ecuadorian president asserted, saying that a deliberate act of aggression has been perpetuated against Ecuador, that such impunity will not be tolerated and that he, therefore, has communicated with other Latin American presidents in search of support and proposing mechanisms, not specifically outlined, to avoid any internationalization of the Colombian conflict.
He reported that Colombian military aircraft incurred more than 10 kilometers into Ecuadorian territory and that then troops entered via helicopter to perpetrate a massacre during which FARC leader Raúl Reyes died. He added that 18 bodies have been found, some shot in the back and almost all of them in nightwear, evidence that there was no chase in the heat of the moment nor any exercise of legitimate defense as Colombia has asserted.
STRONG STATEMENT BY CHAVEZ
Venezuelan President Chávez described his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe as criminal, lying and a lackey of the United States, reported Prensa Latina.
Chavez stated during his regular Sunday television program "Aló Presidente" that he had spoken with President Rafael Correa, who had communicated his indignation with the murder in his country of FARC leader Raúl Reyes. "It wasn’t any battle, it was a cowardly murder," the Venezuelan leader emphasized.
He also condemned the way in which the Colombian oligarchy’s media hasrejoiced over the death of Reyes and attempted to cast him as the leader of a drug trafficking network.
Chavez ordered the closing of the Venezuelan embassy in Bogotá yesterday, Sunday and sent 10 battalions, tanks and aircraft to the Colombian border after the Colombian army attack on a FARC detachment within Ecuadorian territory.
Translated by Granma International
WEEKLY NEWS UPDATE ON THE AMERICAS
ISSUE #937, MARCH 2, 2008
NICARAGUA SOLIDARITY NETWORK OF GREATER NEW YORK
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Colombia: FARC Negotiator Killed
Weekly News Update on the Americas covers news from Latin America and the Caribbean, compiled and written from a progressive perspective.
It has been published weekly by the Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York since 1990. For a subscription, write to email@example.com. It is archived at
COLOMBIA: FARC NEGOTIATOR KILLED
The Colombian military killed 18 members of the rebel
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadoran
territory early in the morning of Mar. 1, including the group's second-in-command and chief spokesperson and negotiator, Raul Reyes.
According to Colombian defense minister Juan Manuel
Santos, "a human source" gave information that Reyes had arrived in the area, near the San Miguel river in a zone known as Granada, bordering on Colombia's southern Putumayo department.
Shortly after midnight the Colombian air force bombed the camp
where Reyes was staying. Afterwards, the Colombian military
removed Reyes' body to Colombia "to keep the guerrilleros from
taking it away," Defense Minister Santos said; photos of the
corpse quickly appeared in the media.
The Colombian military said Guillermo Enrique Torres ("Julian
Conrado"), another FARC negotiator, was killed in the operation; there were also reports that Reyes' partner Gloria was killed.
(Reyes, whose real name was Luis Edgar Devia, leaves three
children; two of them are medical professionals.) Ecuadoran
president Rafael Correa said his country's soldiers later found the other FARC members' bodies "in underwear, pajamas." They were "massacred while they slept," according to Correa. The Ecuadoran soldiers also rescued three wounded guerrilleros.
In addition to commanding the FARC's Southern Front, Reyes headed failed 1998-2002 peace negotiations with former president Andres Pastrana; he remained the group's most visible spokesperson.
He was killed just three days after the FARC's Feb. 27 release of four hostages--former National Congress members Gloria Polanco, Jorge Eduardo Gechem, Luis Eladio Perez and Orlando Beltran--to Venezuela.
[This was the second release since the beginning of the year; see Update #930.] Former Colombian senator Piedad Cordoba, who accompanied the freed hostages to Caracas, called Reyes' killing "a premeditated blow to the process" of starting prisoner exchanges between the government and the FARC.
"A few months ago I was with Reyes in one of his camps," she told the Mexican daily La Jornada, "and I was able to verify his wish to achieve an exchange, so that his death is a great loss not just for the FARC but also for hopes for peace for Colombia."
The New York Times noted that the FARC's highest commander,
Manuel Marulanda Velez ("Tirofijo"), is reportedly ill; with
Reyes gone, Eastern Front commander Jorge Briceno Suarez ("Mono Jojoy"), known as a hardliner, is a "contender to succeed" Marulanda.
The Colombian government's decision to attack the FARC in
Ecuadoran territory heightened tensions with both Ecuador and
Venezuela, whose leftist governments are allied. According to
President Correa, rightwing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe
called him and said the Colombian military had attacked while "in hot pursuit" of the FARC.
Citing the evidence that the guerrilleros were in fact asleep, Correa said Uribe either "was deceived, or yet another time he has lied to the Ecuadoran government."
On the evening of Mar. 1 Ecuador formally protested the incursion into its territory; on Mar. 2 Correa told Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez Frias that he was recalling Ecuador's ambassador, Francisco Suescum, from Bogota and was moving troops towards the Colombian border.
On Mar. 2 during his weekly television program, "Hello,
President," Chavez announced that he was closing Venezuela's
embassy in Bogota and was sending 10 battalions to the border
with Colombian. A Venezuelan battalion can have 576 soldiers; the Venezuelan military has about 40,000 soldiers, including
Chavez called Reyes' killing "a cowardly murder, coldly prepared," and described Uribe as a "lackey," a "liar" and a "criminal" who "does what [US president George W.] Bush tells him to do." [LJ 3/2/08 from correspondent, AFP, DPA, Reuters, Notimex; NYT 3/2/08 from correspondent; El Diario-La Prensa (NY) 3/2/08 from AP]