Latin American governments condemn Colombian attacks, defend territorial sovereignty

Latin American governments and regional organizations declared support for Ecuadorian national sovereignty and regional unity, and widely condemned the assault by Colombian armed forces on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadorian territory on Saturday.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa

Caracas, March 3, 2008 ( – Latin American governments and regional organizations declared support for Ecuadorian national sovereignty and regional unity, and widely condemned the assault by Colombian armed forces on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadorian territory early Saturday morning, which resulted in the deaths of 16 insurgents, among them Raúl Reyes, a top level FARC leader and diplomat.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa made a televised appeal Sunday for international solidarity with Ecuador in the wake of Colombia`s “planned aerial attack” and subsequent “unacceptable aggression” perpetrated by 60 Colombian ground troops “with full conscience that they were violating our sovereignty.”

Correa informed the press that he had already spoken with the leaders of over a dozen Latin American nations, the Organization of American States, and Spain to “impede the internationalization of the conflict in Colombia” and to reiterate the gravity of what he said was the worst act of aggression that the Uribe administration has inflicted on Ecuador.

Investigations conducted by Ecuadorian military and government officials “confirmed irrefutably” that the attack was a premeditated “massacre” that penetrated up to 10 kilometers of Ecuadorian territory, Correa announced.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Colombian Foreign Secretary Fernando Araújo, gave a different account and claimed that Colombian helicopters flying in southern Colombia were fired upon from inside Ecuadorian territory, justifying the attack, which they claimed was an act of “legitimate defense” conducted from within Colombian territory.

However, Correa said there is no justification for foreign military aggression in Ecuadorian territory, and Colombia`s “mockery of the truth and of the Ecuadorian people” has violated bilateral treaties and international law, “but most of all, the respect and trust that should exist between brotherly countries.”

Colombian Foreign Secretary Araújo appealed to the government of Ecuador to consider the attack as a defense of both countries against the “terrorists” who were illegally taking refuge in foreign territory and causing harm to local populations.

In response, Correa declared that “Colombia is a sovereign nation, and so are we, and international law demands that they inform us, and that it be the public forces of Ecuador which carry out the capture, as has occurred on multiple occasions in the past, always with absolute respect for human rights,” and reiterated that Ecuador does not support the FARC and disapproves of the insurgent`s “actions and methods”.

Ecuadorian Ambassador to Venezuela René Vargas Pazzo declared on the Venezuelan government television channel (VTV) that Colombia`s attack on the sleeping guerrilla encampment had “no military justification,” and that it was rather “a provocation by people or governments who do not want peace, who do not want integration, who want war and that is the path that all South American must oppose, all Latin Americans who want peace, union, and integration.”

The Andean Parliament, a diplomatic organization of the community of Andean nations, echoed Pazzo`s analysis, asserting that Colombia`s military apparatus is being manipulated in the interests of the Pentagon, and that the violations of trust by Colombian officials impede “the creation of unity among southern peoples.”

The attacks were “at odds with the most elemental principles of International Humanitarian Law,” according to the Latin American Association for Human Rights (ALDHU), a 28 year-old international NGO based in Ecuador that works with over 20 nations and is a principle component of the Andean Parliament. Juan de Dios Parra, the general secretary of ALDHU, called the events an “invasion” and a “massacre” which “violated all the international norms regulating the respect for borders”.

In addition, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, told the Chilean press that “we cannot be in agreement with the non-respect of borders and we lament that Ecuador has been assaulted.” She personally spoke with President Correa and asserted that “borders between countries are based on international agreements,” which is why their transgression for “whatever objective, legitimate or illegitimate” is “extremely delicate”.

Statements were also released by the Brazilian administration, which announced its initiation of a multi-national diplomatic effort to “maximally reduce tension and renew initiatives to achieve a humanitarian accord.” Brazilian president Lula da Silva has reportedly consulted with the presidents of Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela. Brazilian Foreign Relations Secretary cancelled diplomatic activities scheduled in Sao Paolo this week to attend to the conflict, which presidential envoy Marco Aurelio García says “has influence on regional destabilization,” therefore “our principle of non-interference cannot mean indifference.”

Statements released from the Argentine foreign relations department expressed that “Argentina is dismayed and very worried about what is evidently a violation of the territorial sovereignty of a country in the region,” and that the country will remain “active and in constant contact…in order to coordinate a common position.”

Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte declared, “Paraguay vindicates the sovereignty of nations, the self-determination of peoples, and condemns all external aggression, all usurpation, all forsaking of the territorial sovereignty of nations.”

Similarly, Peruvian President Alan García expressed “enormous preoccupation” and condemned Colombia`s incursion into Ecuadorian territory as “unacceptable,” calling for urgent action by the Organization of American States (OAS).

Immense concern was also expressed in a statement released by the Bolivian Foreign Relations Ministry which called any act of violation of national sovereignty “unjustifiable,” and called for a “peaceful, long lasting, humanitarian” solution based on “a climate of understanding and mutual respect.” In addition, Bolivia offered to mediate the conflict in line with “peaceful tradition expressed in Bolivian Constitutional Precepts.”

In similar fashion, Mexican President Felipe Calderón urged dialogue and communicated directly with Uribe and Correa to offer his mediation if both countries agree.

Cuba`s former president Fidel Castro unabashedly diagnosed the situation as a “consequence of the genocidal plans of the Yankee empire,” and declared that once again, after a long history of such attacks from the U.S. and its allies, “the trumpets of war are heard mightily in the South of our continent… this is nothing new! It was foreseen!”

José Miguel Insulza, the general secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS), announced Monday that in addition to the ordinary meeting of the OAS Tuesday, there will be a special meeting to treat the conflict related to Colombia`s attacks, petitioned by the Ecuadorian president.

Insulza expressed that this “is a problem among member states that also affects the fundamental values of our constitutive charter,” and withheld further commentary “until the states can converse this Tuesday.”