The situation is continuing to escalate in South America. Ecuador and Venezuela have now, according to the BBC, cut all ties with the Colombian government, expelling all Colombian diplomats. Unsurprisingly, the Colombian government have embarked on a massive smear campaign (aided, no doubt, by the US) to damage the reputations of both Chavez and Correa. The following is taken from the International Herald Tribune:
Venezuela and Ecuador sought Monday to make Colombia pay a high price for killing a leftist rebel leader in the Ecuadorean jungle — expelling its diplomats, ordering troops to the border and cracking down on trade across the border.
But Colombia quickly struck back, revealing what it said were incriminating documents seized from the rebel camp that suggest its neighbors have been secretly supporting the leftist rebels' deadly insurgency.
Colombia's national police chief stood by its attack that killed Reyes, and said that documents recovered from his laptop showed Venezuela's leftist government recently paid $300 million to the rebels, among other financial and political ties that date back years, and that high-level meetings have been held between rebels and Ecuadorean officials.
And this shocker: Colombia says some documents suggest the rebels have bought and sold uranium.
"When they mention negotiations for 50 kilos of uranium this means that the FARC are taking big steps in the world of terrorism to become a global aggressor. We're not talking of domestic guerrilla but transnational terrorism," Gen. Oscar Naranjo said at an explosive news conference.
But here is the killer:
Naranjo didn't give any details on when, where or from whom the uranium was allegedly bought. He provided no proof of the payment and wouldn't release copies of the documents, which he said are "tremendously revelatory" and are being examined with the help of U.S. experts.
No prizes for guessing what the US experts might deduce. Of course, most of what Colombia alleges must be taken with a pinch of salt. The Colombian government has a long history of involvement with human rights abuses and paramilitary activity and can hardly be taken seriously when accusing others of dubious activity.
It has also emerged that the Colombian government has also seriously compromised efforts by the French government to release one of the hostages, Ingrid Betancourt. Betancourt is a former Colombian presidential candidate who also holds French nationality and has been the subject of negotiations between the French government and the FARC. The French government's contact had been Raul Reyes, until his murder by the Colombian military. The murder of this key contact has made efforts by the French government to release her even more desperate. French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner told French Inter radio on Monday:
Ugly indeed when the Colombian government invades sovereign territory to assassinate a key contact for the release of a hostage.
Furthermore, it has also emerged that the Colombian account of events leading up to the murder of Reyes were stretching the truth somewhat. It would appear that the FARC had not launched any attack on Colombia from the camp in Ecuador, contradicting claims by the Colombian government. The following is lifted from a piece on ZNet by Decio Machado:
Images, testimonies of resident and of three guerrillas found alive, ballistic reports and Ecuadorian military intelligence demonstrate the heap of lies of the Colombian President, Alvaro Uribe. According to the Colombian version, the Front 48 of the FARC was being pursued on indication that Reyes would be present in a small settlement called Granada, near the Ecuadorian frontier but still in Colombian territory.
The Colombian Defence Minister, Juan Manuel Santos, indicated that during the operation the Colombian armed forces had been attacked from a FARC camp situated 1,800 metres from the border in Ecuadorian territory. The Colombian air force then located and attacked the guerrilla camp, taking into account the order not to violate the Ecuadorian air space. The Colombian armed forces later went in to ensure control of the place, leaving the Colombian police in charge till the arrival of the Ecuadorian army.
Investigations on the part of the Ecuadorian authorities show there was no combat on the side of the FARC unit which was attacked. With the exception of three of them keeping guard, the 18 killed were asleep in their undergarments; none of the guerrillas had the opportunity of fighting or surrendering. The arms in the camp were piled up. They did not have the chance even to reach for their rifles and grenades; they were massacred while asleep.
The testimonies of the residents of the area, as also the large craters on the camp ground, show that four bombs were launched from Colombian aircraft that entered Ecuadorian territory. According to the investigations of the military intelligence, these were launched from the south of the camp, which is to say that the aircraft had intruded more than 10 km into Ecuadorian territory when the attack began.
After the bombing from these aircraft, several ‘Supertuscan’ helicopters of the Colombian air force came in and from these the attack on the FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory continued. The helicopters landed special commandos who finished off the injured guerrillas. As the bullet wounds in the bodies of the majority of the guerrillas show, many of them were piled up in a part of the camp and killed from behind. Even the photographs taken by the Colombian government of Raul Reyes’ body show he had a shot on the left side of his face.
Information coming from Ecuadorian military intelligence indicates that the country’s air space was not only violated on the dawn of March 1 but also that on the dawn of March 2 there was another incursion of the helicopters with night vision equipment to pick up members of the armed forces and Colombian police still in Ecuadorian territory. The position of the trees brought down by the bombardment, the multiple bullet holes on them, as also the position of the bodies, demonstrate that while the FARC was guarding the camp on the northern side facing the Colombian frontier, the air incursion happened from the south, which indicates that the Colombian air force intruded without permission or notification, contravening all international norms about Ecuadorian air space.
The testimonies of the area’s residents indicate the attack lasted from approximately after midnight till six in the morning of March 1. The precision of the attack also shows the use of important military technology which puts on the table the possibility of the participation of the United States in the massacres, at least in spotting the guerrilla unit.
It would certainly appear that the US has it's hands all over this one. What with the combination of military intelligence/hardware and the 'experts' who are analysing documents at the scene that supposedly link Venezuela and Ecuador with what the US calls a 'terrorist organisation', could we possibly see a widening of the 'war on terror'?? Could the United States be on the verge of turning it's attention back on to it's own backyard and launching a new vicious campaign to turn back the "pink tide" sweeping South America?? Perhaps this re-assertion has become more desperate as a result of Ecuador's recent decision not to renew the agreement with the US to utilise the Manta air base as part of the Plan Colombia strategy. Whatever, the US government is clearly concerned about it's weakening hegemony in the region and is prepared to step up efforts to ensure it is the dominant player in the region once more.
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It now appears that President Uribe is calling for Chavez to be charged by the International Criminal Court for "financing genocide". Yes, you did read that correctly. The President of a country in which paramilitaries are free to roam the country and murder trade unionists with impunity is attempting to have Chavez prosecuted for genocide. Perhaps if the ICC is to look into Uribe's ridiculous claims, it might also take serious action against the Colombian government for allowing union members to be murdered with impunity.