Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina strengthen ties, embark on “true geopolitical shift”

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Argentine President Cristina Fernadez de Kirchner visited Caracas Wednesday night to strengthen their policial alliance with Venezuela in the face of the diplomatic crisis sparked by Colombia's incursion into Ecuadorian territory on Saturday.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa

Caracas, March 6, 2008 ( – Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa strengthened his political alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Caracas Wednesday on the third stop of his tour of Latin American nations in search of diplomatic guarantees against violations of territorial sovereignty in the wake of Colombia`s assault on encampments of the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadorian territory last Saturday. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was also in Caracas to strengthen ties with Venezuela, and Chávez promoted solutions to Venezuelan food shortages with the two neighboring presidents.

Following a private meeting with Chávez, President Correa reaffirmed his termination of diplomatic relations with Colombia, declaring “we cannot have relations with a subject that has lost credibility with the world”.

While emphasizing that the relationship between the people of Colombia and Ecuador will remain “eternal,” Correa denounced that “Ecuador has been bombarded by an aggressive, war mongering government [whose] lies pull them down: first they wanted to deny their assault on our sovereignty, then later they recognized it.”

President Chávez announced following the meeting with Correa that Venezuela will now import from Ecuador what it previously received from Colombia, following the rupturing of commercial relations between Venezuela and Colombia this week. The two presidents “will look for the mechanisms to implement this exchange, to see which products we can import” from Ecuador, Chávez said.

The abrupt change in import sourcing is to protect Venezuela from foreign attempts to destabilize the country by manipulating food shortages, Chávez explained, asserting that Colombia is no longer a trustworthy provider, since it is led by a “compulsive lier”. Chávez assured that Colombians who cross over to Venezuela for free health care in the Barrio Adentro Missions created by the Chávez administration will continue receiving attention.

Following the meeting between Chávez and Correa Wednesday night, Argentine President Kirchner ratified energy-for-food accords with Chávez Thursday morning, and the two solidified their alliance in favor of regional integration.

In the agreements signed, Argentine Energy corporation (ENARSA) will receive oil and energy technology from the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA. In exchange, an array of Argentine companies will deliver agricultural machinery and technology, along with food products such as milk and beef, to Venezuela.

Kirchner hopes these 14 bilateral accords will help Argentine prevent a repeat of the severe electricity and fuel shortages that adversely affected public transportation and home heating during the cold winter last year, while Chávez hailed the deals as a step forward in combating food shortages in Venezuela and promoting regional cooperation for “food sovereignty” as well as Venezuela`s “Integral Sustainable Agriculture Project” aimed at increasing national food production.

President Chávez recounted that 10 years ago such cooperation between Venezuelan and Argentine presidents would have been unimaginable, and that Kirchner`s visit symbolizes the “true geopolitical shift that is changing the history of South American countries.”

Also in Caracas, President Kirchner met with President Correa and reiterated her rejection of Colombia`s violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty. Moreover, Kirchner confirmed her support for humanitarian exchange in Colombia after meeting with opposition Senator Piedad Córdoba, who collaborated with President Chávez to negotiate the FARC´s release of 10 hostages so far this year, and Yolanda Pulecio, the mother of former French presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt who was kidnapped by the FARC in 2002 and whose release is a top priority of current French President Nicolás Sarkozy.

“The policy of human rights is one of the fundamental pillars of the Republic of Argentina, and that is why I am not going to abandon the cause of humanitarian exchange that, if it were to happen, would be an important factor for the solution of conflict in the region,” Kirchner proclaimed in Caracas Thursday.

Thursday afternoon Correa garnered the support of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who announced after meeting with Correa in Managua his decision to break diplomatic relations with Colombia, “in solidarity with the Ecuadorian People”.

In a Managua press conference, Correa demanded a condemnation “without question” of the attack by Colombian armed forces in Ecuadorian territory.

In a recent special meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS), the diplomatic organisation denounced the violation of Ecuador`s territorial sovereignty but fell short of condemning the attacks outright. Correa asserted that “if this aggression remains in impunity, then the OAS will not be worth a thing, and that is why we appeal for a condemnation,” and said the matter should be on the agenda in the upcoming meeting of the hemisphere`s foreign relations ministers scheduled for March 17th.

Meanwhile, on the Pacific coast of Colombia, the FARC unilaterally liberated four hostages, who they turned over to an International Red Cross committee, according to Colombian Colonel Hector Aguas. The Red Cross committee has reported that the hostages arrived in very good physical condition, Aguas told the press. The hostages include biology professor Ana María Aldana Serrano, hotel owner César Hoyos Benítez, education professor Hernando Martínez Rodríguez, and businessman José Arnulfo Rodríguez Barrera.

In over 130 cities worldwide on Thursday, marches were held to protest against paramilitary groups in Colombia in solidarity with the Bogotá-based National Movement of Victims of State Crimes who led that call for the march. Colombian organizer Iván Cepeda was reported to have rejected FARC support for the march and encouraged that the protest not be politicized, declaring “we do not accept the support nor the outreach of armed groups marginal to the law”.

Nonetheless, the regional flare-up in the conflict with Colombia this week prompted an expansion of the anti-paramilitary message to include a general rejection of imperialist aggression in Latin America in some demonstrations in Venezuela.

At a march to the Colombian consulate in Mérida, Venezuela Thursday morning, organizer Emilio Useche told reporters that part of the message of the protest is to raise caution about plans by the United States and its ally Colombia to destabilize Latin America in order to justify military action aimed at controlling Venezuela`s oil reserves: “We have seen clear examples… The U.S. invaded Iraq on false accusations that it had weapons of mass destruction, and now they are accusing Venezuela of supporting terrorists, when the real terrorists are the state of Colombia, the U.S., and the paramilitaries… we support a peaceful humanitarian solution.”