The Boston Globe
March 08, 2008
Colombia's Uribe vows not to violate sovereignty again
SANTO DOMINGO - The presidents of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela agreed yesterday to resolve their angry recriminations over a crossborder Colombian commando raid, a crisis that brought troop movements and talk of war.
The uneasy neighbors joined in a declaration noting that President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia apologized for the last weekend's attack on a Colombian rebel base in Ecuadoran territory and that he pledged not to violate another nation's sovereignty again.
The declaration signed by presidents of the 20-nation Rio Group reiterated a commitment to fight threats to national stability posed by "irregular or criminal groups."
Their hours-long emergency summit featured finger-jabbing lectures, furious speeches, and pleas for goodwill.
The dramatic high point came when the host, President Leonel Fernández of the Dominican Republic, urged Uribe to shake hands with his antagonists to show his goodwill. Uribe then marched around the table and shared stiff handshakes with Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez.
Correa appealed to Uribe to respect their border and never again act unilaterally to send troops into his territory to attack a rebel camp. If such an act is justified, then no border will be safe, Correa said, drawing applause.
The showdown underscored Latin America's swerve to the left in recent years - and the increasing isolation of Colombia's center-right government, Washington's strongest ally in the region.
Correa, Chávez, and President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, leftists opposed to US foreign policies, were the most strident in confronting Uribe. But even centrist leaders lectured Uribe about the need to honor territorial sovereignty and the rule of law.
At one point, the atmosphere became so bitter that Correa walked out of the meeting. He returned to denounce Uribe as a liar.
"Your insolence is doing more damage to the Ecuadoran people than your murderous bombs," Correa bellowed.
Uribe said his military was forced to act because Colombia's neighbors refused to stop offering haven to the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which finances its anti-government insurgency through kidnapping and drug trafficking.
Uribe held up documents he said were recovered from the laptop of a key FARC leader killed in the raid, Raul Reyes. One, he said, showed Reyes telling the top rebel commander about "aid delivered to Rafael Correa, as instructed."
Colombia's president said he did not give Correa advance warning of the attack on Ecuadoran soil because "we haven't had the cooperation of the government of President Correa in the fight against terrorism."
Correa said Ecuador is a victim of Colombia's conflict, and proposed an international peacekeeping force to guard the border.
Chávez tried to strike a conciliatory tone, noting that the crisis "keeps heating up."
After Colombian planes and commandos killed two dozen people at the rebel camp, Venezuela and Ecuador moved soldiers to their borders with Colombia.
Chávez denied Uribe's accusation that he had given $300 million to the Colombian rebels and said he never sent them weapons.
"I could have sent a lot of rifles to the FARC. I will never do it because I want peace," Chávez said.