JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr
The New York Times
March 07, 2008
MEXICO CITY — Nicaragua broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia on Thursday, entering the fray on the side of Ecuador and Venezuela in a tense standoff over Colombia’s decision last week to raid a rebel camp on Ecuadorean soil.
President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua said he was taking the action to show solidarity with President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, who was visiting Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. Mr. Ortega’s government also has a territorial dispute with Colombia.
The strike on Saturday against Colombian rebels hiding just over the border in Ecuador has ignited a diplomatic and military crisis. Ecuador and Venezuela have sent troops to their borders with Colombia, which is the largest recipient of American military aid in Latin America.
With Mr. Ortega’s diplomatic maneuver, he joined an alliance of left-leaning states trying to isolate Colombia and to press its president, Álvaro Uribe, to apologize. The move occurred on the same day that Ecuador reported capturing five people on its northern frontier.
Ecuador’s security minister, Gustavo Larrea, said in Quito that they were believed to be rebels who survived the raid, according to news reports.
Mr. Uribe regards the rebel group — the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known by the acronym FARC — as terrorists and drug traffickers, while other leaders in the region see them as revolutionaries fighting a United States-backed puppet government.
“We are breaking with the terrorist politics that Álvaro Uribe’s government is employing,” said Mr. Ortega, who once led the Sandinista guerrillas against American-backed forces in Nicaragua.
Colombia, for its part, played down worries that the dispute could escalate into a war. The Colombian vice president, Francisco Santos, told Reuters in Brussels that his country “won’t fall into the game of provocation.”
Colombia has contended that Ecuador’s government has tolerated the FARC’s presence on its soil. But Ecuadorean officials say they have destroyed more than a dozen FARC camps in their territory in recent years.
Simon Romero contributed reporting from Bogotá.