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OAS supports Ecuador, Venezuela on "path of true peace"

Caracas, March 5, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com ) - In a special meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) Tuesday to mediate the conflict sparked by Colombian attacks on encampments of the Revolutionary Forces Armed of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadorian territory, the OAS formally declared that Colombia`s actions violated Ecuador`s national sovereignty and broke international law, both of which the OAS affirmed are "inviolable...directly or indirectly, for whatever reason, even temporarily".

Ecuador also achieved unanimous backing of its petition for an urgent meeting of foreign relations ministers in the hemisphere, which is scheduled to take place March 17th in Washington, D.C.

A special committee headed by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza was created to investigate the attacks and prepare a report for the meeting in Washington. The proposal for this investigation was originally rejected by Colombian Ambassador to the OAS Camilo Ospina, who considered the theme impertinent and said "the internal affairs of Colombia will be resolved by the Colombian government."

Claims by the Colombian government to have acted in self-defense have been refuted by survivor testimonies and Ecuadorian government investigations which reveal evidence that it was a pre-planned "massacre" of a sleeping encampment.

On top of that, reports that U.S. Admiral Joseph Nimmich met with Colombian military leaders in Bogotá two days before Saturday`s attacks with the stated purpose of "sharing vital information in the fight against terrorism" have fueled suspicions of direct U.S. involvement in invasion.

Along the same vein, the international Spanish language news agency EFE and The Guardian report the use of cluster bombs in Saturday`s attacks, weapons which have been denounced by human rights organizations.

Ospina apologized before the OAS for Colombia`s incursion into Ecuadorian territory, but justified the assault, the death toll of which rose to 23 today after new bodies were found, on the basis that the FARC are a "narcotrafficking mafia".

Ecuadorian Foreign Relations Minister María Salvador asserted that "a diplomatic apology [by Colombia] will not be sufficient," and demanded concrete measures that guarantee Ecuadorian sovereignty.

Such guarantees are the aim of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa`s tour of Latin American nations to promote of international accords to avoid the spread of Colombia`s internal conflict and defend against what he called a "strategy to destabilize the Ecuadorian government in order to put another puppet in Ecuador".

On the first stop Tuesday Correa won the full backing of Peruvian President Alan García, who pleaded that "our dear friend" Uribe "admit his error," and also urged President Chávez not to get involved in the conflict between Ecuador and Colombia.

Correa traveled to Brazil Wednesday to meet with Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who announced Tuesday that "it is a concrete fact that Colombia violated the territorial sovereignty of Ecuador," but said he was "convinced that we are going to find a peaceful and tranquil solution to this. All the presidents in the region are conscious that tranquility is necessary for growth and peace is the most important."

Following his meeting in Brazil, Correa also met with President Chávez in Caracas Wednesday night, and will subsequently move on to Panama, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic.

President Chávez publicly reaffirmed Wednesday that "we want peace, and nobody, nothing will divert us from the path to true peace." In addition, the Venezuelan Defense Minister, General Gustavo Rangel Briceño, reiterated Wednesday that the mobilization of Venezuelan troops to the border is not intended as a threat against the Colombian people, but is a measure of caution in the wake of Colombia`s aggression in Colombia.

"The Bolivarian Armed Force... respectful of the constitution and the law, favors peace, but is ready to defend the sacred sovereignty of the fatherland," he proclaimed.

Meanwhile, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe will reconsider his threat to summon Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez to the International Criminal Court on charges of "patronage and financing of genocide," according to former Colombian President Ernesto Samper, who is part of Uribe`s foreign relations committee that advised Uribe to put a halt to the effort.

Uribe had accused Chávez of delivering $300 million to the FARC, evidenced by records in a computer that was allegedly salvaged from Saturday`s attacks and belonged to the FARC`s second-in-command Raul Reyes, who was killed in the bombardment.

A diverse group of Colombian political parties, after pledging support for a peaceful solution to the crisis, decried that Uribe`s accusations would only worsen the crisis, and suggested that going to the ICC is "anti-legal" because, when Colombia ratified the ICC in 2002, Uribe earmarked a seven year waiting period during which international laws against war crimes would not apply to Colombia.

If the Colombian government were to recognize international laws against war crimes, those would be the only viable charges against the FARC, whereas the FARC could not possibly be indicted for genocide, which Article 6 of the ICC legal charter, the Rome Statute, defines as specific "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group," former Colombian Congressperson Jimmy Chamorro speculated.

On top of that, Uribe`s charges against Chávez do not exist in the Rome Statute, according to José Castillo, a lawyer who previously defended Chávez against fraudulent charges related to the April 2002 coup that were raised by Venezuelan opposition leaders and later dismissed by the court.

Shortly after Saturday`s attacks, the FARC issued an internet message that "we invite revolutionary firmness, to not lose ground in the effort in favor of humanitarian exchange, to continue our proposal for peace and for the construction of an effective democracy with social justice."

FARC leaders made another statement Tuesday that Colombia`s murder during the assault Saturday of FARC commander Raúl Reyes, who had been leading negotiations with the French government for the FARC`s release of former French presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, "gravely struck the possibilities of humanitarian exchange and annulled a political outlet in the conflict," and urged that Venezuela, France, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Argentina, and Bolivia push for the demilitarization of two Colombian municipalities which the FARC say must be clear of government forces in order for hostage release to proceed.

An international Gallup poll on Tuesday found that 80% of Ecuadorians support Correa`s handling of the conflict so far. A poll of 1,068 Colombians in five cities and the border region with Ecuador by the Colombia-based National Consultation Center revealed that 83% approved the Colombian military`s actions Saturday.

Amidst speculations by Venezuelan private industry that the rupture of commercial relations with Colombia could cause $500 million in losses per month, the Venezuelan Food Minister Félix Osorio assured Wednesday that within 30 days the gap in imports will be covered. Meanwhile, Argentine President Cristina de Kirchner traveled to Caracas Wednesday to sign food exportation accords with President Chávez, after expressing support for Ecuadorian territorial sovereignty.

Also, the Israeli Foreign Relations Minister responded to declarations by President Chávez on Sunday that the U.S. "empire" wishes to make the "mafia" government of Colombia into the "Israel of Latin America".

"No country should feel offended for being compared with Israel," he asserted, because "any comparision with Israel is good."

Published on Mar 5th 2008 at 10.15pm