March 03, 2008
WASHINGTON -- The Organization of American States will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss a Colombian military raid into Ecuador that killed a top FARC commander and sparked a crisis with Venezuela.
The raid was degenerating into a major diplomatic row on Monday, with Colombia alleging Venezuela and Ecuador were violating international agreements not to harbor terrorists.
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said Colombia had illegally crossed its border and would present a resolution condemning the action at an OAS meeting Tuesday afternoon, diplomats said, setting the stage for a potentially bitter showdown with the U.S.-backed Colombian government.
South American diplomats are expected to meet ahead of the OAS meeting in an effort to work out a compromise, said one OAS diplomat, who declined to be quoted by name given the delicate situation.
OAS head José Miguel Insulza has been consulting with several Latin American heads of state on the crisis, diplomats said. Leaders from Brazil, Chile and other Latin American nations are looking for ways to cool the growing uproar.
The 34-member OAS is the hemisphere's main political conflict-resolving institution.
A weekend raid by Colombian forces conducted just inside the Ecuadorean border killed several members of the Colombian left-wing rebel group known as the FARC, including one of its best-known leaders, Luis Edgar Devia, also known as Raúl Reyes.
The raid prompted Venezuela's left-wing president, Hugo Chávez, to issue strongly worded protests and dispatch troops to the country's western border with Colombia. Ecuador also said it would bolster its military presence on its northern border with Colombia.
In a statement, the Colombian government said it would not increase its military presence along its borders and that its intentions were peaceful.
Speaking on Ecuadorean television, Correa said he had expelled the Colombian ambassador to Quito and initiated an international campaign against Bogotá. He said the raid was ``the most serious, deceptive and verified aggression that President Uribe has committed against Ecuador.''
Colombia has apologized for the raid and initially it reached out to Ecuador to explain the raid. But its position appeared to harden Monday following the harsh reactions of Chávez and Correa.
Colombian officials said a laptop seized from the camp contained communications between Reyes and Ecuador's security minister, Gustavo Larrea, suggesting Ecuador had agreed to replace its commanders on the border with officers more friendly to the FARC.
The Colombian statement said it was ``concerned over the agreements that may exist between the FARC terrorist group and the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela, which violate international agreements that forbid countries to harbor terrorists.''
The information will be made available to the OAS and the United Nations, the statement added.
The Bush administration urged Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador to settle their differences before the OAS.
State Department spokeswoman Heide Bronke said Reyes was ''first and foremost a senior leader in a terrorist organization whose stated goal was the violent overthrow of the government of Colombia'' and that Washington would continue to support Colombia's efforts to defeat terrorist groups.
''We urge restraint and believe that the OAS is an appropriate venue for the two countries to find a solution,'' she said.
Some countries believe Colombia owes the world an explanation.
''A situation of this nature without a doubt merits an explanation,'' said Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. ``The most important thing today is that we can avoid an escalation of this conflict.''