Caracas, March 18, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com) – After fourteen hours of tense debate, the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS) approved, early this morning in Washington, a resolution ratifying the declaration of the Rio Group Summit of March 7, which rejected Colombia’s military incursion into Ecuador on March 1. The incursion had killed 25 people, including Raul Reyes, second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
The resolution was approved unanimously by all 34 member countries, except for the United States, which expressed “reservations” about point four, which “rejects the incursion of military and police forces of Colombia in the territory of Ecuador,” considering it a “clear violation” of articles 19 and 21 of the OAS Charter.”
U.S. Undersecretary of State John Negraponte said the U.S “supported” the resolution in general in order to “build trust between Colombian and Ecuador,” but argued that Colombia’s military incursion was “justifiable” on the basis of “legitimate defense.”
The resolution also “registered” Colombia’s “full apology for the acts that occurred” and its commitment to ensure that such acts are never repeated “in any circumstance.”
“The firm commitment of States to combat threats to security from irregular groups or criminal organizations, in particular those linked to narco-trafficking,” was also reiterated.
Also “noted” was the report of OAS General Secretary, José Insulza, who last week carried out an investigation into the events, concluding that the versions of Ecuador and Colombia were “contradictory.” However, none of the recommendations Insulza proposed were incorporated.
Insulza was charged with observing compliance with the resolution and assisting the rebuilding of trust between the two countries, with a progress report to be presented at the next General Assembly of the OAS in June.
Initially Ecuador had called for the OAS to explicitly “condemn” Colombia’s military incursion, and received the backing of twelve States, including Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, and Bolivia. However, this was vehemently opposed by Colombia, the United States and Mexico.
In order to achieve consensus, Ecuador then modified its call for the OAS to “reject” Colombia’s actions.
Differences also erupted over a Colombian proposal, backed by Negroponte, to include references to combating “terrorism” and the right to “legitimate defense.”
Colombia, the U.S., and the EU classify the FARC as a “terrorist organization,” while many Latin American countries do not classify the guerrillas in this form.
Colombia has also alleged that documents found on computers belonging to the FARC, seized by the Colombian National Police during the raid, show links between the guerrillas and the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela, a claim that both countries have categorically rejected.
Tensions increased further during the meeting over a photo published in Colombian daily El Tiempo, (owned the Santos family, many of whom occupy high posts within the Colombian government), which the paper said it had received from a source in the Colombian National Police who assured that it showed Ecuador’s Security Minister, Gustavo Larrea meeting with Raul Reyes of the FARC.
However, it was later revealed that the claim was a fraud and that the photo was of Patricio Echegaray, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Argentina.
Ecuador argued that Colombia was trying to divert attention from the issue at hand and in the context of Colombia’s “media campaign” the proposed reference to terrorism implied that Ecuador was somehow linked to Colombia’s internal war with the FARC.
The key focus of the resolution should be a rejection of Colombia’s violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty, officials said.
Although the final document reaffirmed the commitment of OAS member countries to combat “irregular groups” and “criminal organizations,” it made no reference to terrorism.
However, Colombia’s Foreign Minister Fernando Araújo told reporters after the close of the meeting, that his country had achieved the objectives it had set, such as “cooperation with Ecuador in the struggle against criminals, insurgents and terrorists.”
Despite Colombia’s commitment to ensure that such acts are never repeated under “any circumstance” the Ecuador-based Correazo.com reported on Monday that according to Colombian Senator Jesús Bernal, of opposition party Polo Democratico, Uribe had said in a closed meeting with senators and political leaders that he would act in the same manner if it meant defeating the guerrillas and that the declaration of the Rio Group Summit “was nothing more than a pantomime.”
On the other hand, Ecuador’s Foreign Minister, María Isabel Salvador said that the OAS resolution was “a clear triumph” for her country, but argued that the discussions dragged out for so long because “Colombia wanted to include a series of points that had no relation to the issue under debate: the violation of Ecuadorian sovereignty.”
Consulted over the possibility of reestablishing diplomatic relations with Colombia Salvador replied, “We are evaluating the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Colombia and the sovereign decision of Ecuador will be taken in the opportune moment.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro, accused that “the government of the United States was hindering” the discussions throughout the whole day and argued “the OAS is showing its historic limitations.”
“The gigantic step taken in Santo Domingo remains far above that of the OAS, where the U.S. simply tried, throughout the whole day and part of the early morning, to sabotage, boycott, and block [the resolution] in the different ways they have been using for years.”
Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made a two-nation tour to Chile and Brazil in an attempt to shore up support for Washington’s position on Colombia’s attack.
ANSA reported on March 16 that, in a meeting with Brazilian President Ignacio ‘Lula’ Da Silva on March 14, Rice proposed the “flexibilization of borders” in Latin America, to allow the Colombian military to combat groups like the FARC, beyond its borders.
However, the proposal was flatly rejected by Brazil and ANSA cited a diplomatic source that said, “The proposal annuls article 21 of the OAS Charter that is considered one of the basic principles of relations between Latin American countries. It would create chaos.”
Despite these maneuvers, the U.S. “has been newly defeated and marginalized…the decadent government here in Washington…is very irritated because it didn’t achieve its objective of dividing us, of bringing us into conflict, of pushing us towards war,” Maduro said.
In the opinion of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, “a new epoch has commenced that is tentatively expressing the changes of our continent,” changes that can be seen “with more clarity and precision in the organizations of our continent, which is where we should put our energy: in UNASUR [Union of South American Nations], the Rio Group, and the unity and profound articulation of Latin America and the Caribbean.”