Miraflores Press Office, via Associated Press
We can settle our own disputes!
Diplomatic Crisis Over Colombian Raid Ends in Handshakes
By SIMON ROMERO and JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr.(New York Times)
Published: March 8, 2008
The leaders of four Latin American nations embroiled in a diplomatic crisis over a Colombian military raid in Ecuador ended the dispute on Friday with handshakes and warm embraces at a summit meeting that had earlier been marked by insults and accusations of treachery.
“With the commitment of never attacking a brother country again and by asking forgiveness, we can consider this very serious incident resolved,” said President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, after shaking hands with Colombia’s president, Álvaro Uribe.
Mr. Uribe had started the day accusing Mr. Correa of accepting campaign funds from the leftist rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Mr. Correa then called Mr. Uribe a serial liar. But by the end of the day at the summit meeting in the Dominican Republic, an annual gathering of Latin leaders, they declared the crisis over.
The dispute erupted after Colombian forces crossed into Ecuador last Saturday to kill Raúl Reyes, a senior commander of the FARC, and 23 others at the guerrillas’ camp in Ecuadorean territory. Ecuador and its leftist allies Nicaragua and Venezuela reacted by cutting diplomatic ties with Colombia, a Bush administration ally.
The resolution of the dispute was spelled out in a bland document criticizing Colombia’s foray into Ecuador while recognizing the need to combat illegal armed groups in the region. But images were broadcast throughout the region of Mr. Uribe, who apologized to Mr. Correa, embracing leaders with whom he exchanged barbs for days.
“Our government only wants peace,” said President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who this week had sent 10 tank battalions to Venezuela’s border with Colombia, called Mr. Uribe a mafia boss and threatened to nationalize Colombian companies in Venezuela.
The easing of the crisis came as Colombia’s Defense Ministry said on Friday that a senior commander of the FARC was killed this week by one of his own men.
A FARC deserter informed Colombian security forces of the death of Manuel Jesús Muñoz, better known by his nom de guerre, Iván Ríos, and brought Mr. Muñoz’s severed hand as proof, said Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s defense minister.
“This is proof that the FARC is falling apart,” Mr. Santos said.
Mr. Muñoz is the fifth senior member of the FARC killed in the past year.
Ecuadorean officials, meanwhile, announced that at least six Mexicans with links to radical groups in Mexico City were visiting the FARC rebel camp when the Colombians attacked.
One of them, Lucía Morett Álvarez, 27, survived the bombardment and remains hospitalized in Quito, Ecuador’s capital. Mexican intelligence officials say she has a history of participating in radical left-wing political groups on campus, though she is not believed to be a guerrilla.
The fate of the other five remained unknown on Friday, Mexican and Ecuadorean officials said. All six had traveled to Quito to attend a convention of leftist groups and then decided to go to rebel camp on the border.
None are believed to have played a military role, officials said. “These are radical political activists,” one intelligence officer said. “There is a thin but important line between that and guerrillas.”