The Colombian government this week scuttled a Jimmy Carter-brokered deal to set Colombia and Ecuador back on the road to diplomatic relations, which were broken following the Colombian raid into Ecuadorian territory that killed FARC leader RaÃºl Reyes. Here is an analysis, and a translation of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s strong comments, from CIP Associate Abigail Poe.
On March 3rd of this year, Ecuador pulled its ambassador from Colombia, halting diplomatic relations two days after the raid on a FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory that killed Raul Reyes and 24 others. At the time, it was not clear when diplomatic relations would be restored – but it would have been hard to believe that two and a half months later, relations between Colombia and Ecuador would still be broken off, and on the verge of getting worse.
Tensions have stayed high, and the potential for restored diplomatic relations delayed, by documents from RaÃºl Reyesâ€™ computer hinting that officials from the government of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa maintained ties to the FARC. However, two weeks ago, with the help of mediation by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, Ecuador and Colombia agreed to restore diplomatic relations at the charge dâ€™affaires level. According to the two governments, the restoration of relations at this level was to happen sometime this week.
Over the weekend, though, the agreement to renew diplomatic relations between Colombia and Ecuador collapsed when Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando AraÃºjo said his country would hold back its diplomats in responseto Correaâ€™s â€œaggressiveâ€ comments published in an Argentine newspaper, PÃ¡gina 12, on Sunday. In the article, Correa stated that in order to reestablish full diplomatic relations with Colombia, the Colombian government would have to fully explain the March 1 raid, adding charges that the bombs used in the attack came from the United States.
Ecuadorâ€™s Foreign Minister Maria Isabel Salvador, who told El Tiempo last week that the restoration of diplomatic relations to the charge dâ€™affaires level was â€œonly one step in the total re-establishment of confidence between the two countries,â€ responded to AraÃºjo with a declaration that Ecuador has dropped plans to renew ties with Colombia and is considering limiting bilateral trade â€œif the situation does not improve, above all in Colombiaâ€™s position toward Ecuador.â€
Just last week, it looked like Colombia and Ecuador were on the path toward ending what has become one of the longest-lasting diplomatic standoffs in Latin America’s recent history. Unfortunately, todayâ€™s news makes it look like the bickering between two neighboring countries may continue for an indeterminate period, especially if Ecuador goes through with limiting trade.
Here is a translation of a portion of the interview with Correa that inspired Colombia’s government to postpone the re-establishment of diplomatic ties once again:
(From: â€œGanar las elecciones no es ganar el poder,â€ by Mario Wainfeld, Pagina 12, 6/22/2008)
- What is the current situation with Colombia, given last monthâ€™s international aggression?
- We are the assaulted ones, we get to set the timetable. We have taken a step, to reestablish relations at the chargÃ© dâ€™affaires level. We have a very hot border, it is good to have fluid communications. But in order to establish full relations, we are going to demand that this attack be fully clarified. The bombs were North American and, according to reports by our armed forces, they could not have been dropped from Colombian planes. It is very probable that three of the wounded, according to forensic reports, were finished off after the attacks. The Ecuadorian citizens who were killed there died from blows to the neck and not from shots or bombs.
- To what point can Ecuador control the border militarily?
- Impossible. It is a very porous border. The United States canâ€™t control the passage of immigrants to their territory and are building a wall. And there isnâ€™t a jungle there. Here, there are 400, 500 kilometers of the Amazon jungle. The world has to understand that the problem is not Ecuador, that the problem is Colombia. And that each time a FARC patrol crosses into Ecuador, it means that it crossed out of Colombia. We have 13 military posts on the border, when we would need (in times of peace) one-fourth that amount. Colombia has two. Colombiaâ€™s strategy is to resolve the problem by removing forces from its southern border, they want to involve us.
-T he hypothesis is that Ecuador is a kind of wallâ€¦
- It is the Yankee strategy: they attack from the north to the south, leave the southern border unmanned so that we must make the effort. This also infuriates us. Do you know how many Colombian refugees we have in our country? Four hundred thousand Colombians, seventeen thousand with refugee status, there are many more requests. The problem is not with the Colombian people, the problem is with Uribe.