This is a source for analysis, interviews, and commentary on security in Latin America. Herein you will find rumors, the results of off the record interviews, and information you'll not find in international or United States news media.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Two Fronts Against Colombia

Colombian relations with Ecuador chilled after Colombia delivered a bomb strike on the Ecuadorian side of the border. The FARC’s number two, known as Raul Reyes, was killed, making the strike justifiable for Colombia but still inexcusable for Ecuador.

Speaking more to a domestic audience than the Colombians, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa reacted strongly to the Colombian incursion. He has sent a cursory amount of troops to the Colombian border for a show of strength, not intimidation. He has also begun a regional tour to seek support for his cause, and is scheduled to meet with Hugo Chavez on 5 March after his current meetings with Alan Garcia in Peru have been concluded.

Chavez, who has maintained a rhetorical offensive against Colombia since November last year, has taken advantage of Ecuador’s ire to propel his rhetoric and actions to a new level of war mongering. Chavez has now sent troops and tanks to the Venezuelan-Colombian border, has closed a major border crossing point, and promises that trouble will come if Colombia makes any move to invade.

Uribe will not send Colombian troops to either border, however. Interesting though is his abrupt change in tact. Until 4 March, Uribe had resisted playing into Chavez’s game of name calling and public argument. Now Uribe has announced that he will sue Chavez at the International Criminal Court for financing genocide.

Few doubt that Uribe has the information to back up his claims. Colombian intelligence agents have been planting the seeds of intelligence gathering in Venezuela for over a decade. Rumors that Chavez has in one way or another loaned or granted the FARC 300 million are likely supported by as yet undisclosed evidence. Already information has been leaked to Colombian media, which has taken the mantel for its country and is currently in full attack mode against Chavez – likely allowing Uribe to keep out of the public eye as Colombian journalists lambaste the Venezuelan leader with a number of accusations.

Not the least of which has been a recent accusation that Chavez offered a “stake” in oil companies to the FARC. The nature of this agreement is unclear, but if true, its ramifications for the state sponsorship of an internationally recognized terrorist group and insurgent army are serious enough to potentially cause Chavez some serious trouble at home.

Correa’s ruffled feathers are little more than a show of national unity and a savvy politician seeing an opportunity to gather support. Correa knows that Raul Reyes’ death benefits his country nearly as much as it benefits Colombia. And it is Chavez, not Uribe, that is in the most precarious position. Uribe appears to have lost his patience and will now push forward with a credible smear campaign that may loosen tight blocks of “chavista” support inside Venezuela, further reducing Chavez’s already dwindling support base.

With 24 percent inflation, scarce supplies of basic foodstuffs and a soaring crime rate around the country, it behooves Chavez to keep his supporters’ attention focused elsewhere. Yet if by chasing after war with Colombia, Chavez actually brews a conflict, he must be careful to control blood shed and come out a clear winner. If not, there is a significant chance he will lose the conflict and his presidency...

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