15 December 2009

The Caracas-Bogota-Quito Axis of Tension

A new report issued by the Ecuadorian government claims that intelligence provided by US military personnel operating out of an air base in Manta aided a Colombian attack on the leftist Colombian FARC rebel group in Ecuador last year. Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, has since terminated the basing deal with the US (perhaps as a result of this incident). Both the US and Colombia deny any involvement with the attack.

The operation killed a leading member of FARC, angering Hugo Chavez (was he mad because of the violation of Ecuador's sovereignty, or because he's a friend of FARC?) and leading to the mobilization of Venezuelan forces along the Colombian border. Eventually, tensions died down, but seem to have heated up again this year, centered around the issue of a new US basing agreement with Colombia. This new report should serve to throw a little more fuel on the fire.

This probably constitutes the most tense conglomeration of cross border tensions in the western hemisphere. Correa, while seemingly not as confrontational as the bombastic Chavez, has positioned Ecuador in the camp of far-left Latin American leaders opposed to the United States' presence in the region. It seems likely that Venezuela and Ecuador could probably do more to cut down on the activities of left-wing Colombian rebels and drug gangs using their territory as sanctuary.

On the other side of the divide, while Colombia's Uribe has positioned himself as "our man in Latin America," his party has serious issues of its own, including associations with right-wing paramilitary groups and killings of trade union members. And for some reason, Uribe's bid to amend the constitution to run for another term doesn't attract nearly as much ire as Ortega's or Zelaya's...

With respect to this set of problems, the United States' main priority should probably be to avoid being drawn into the conflict. This seems to be becoming more difficult, though, due to our increasingly close ties to Colombia. Hopefully, we have made it exceedingly clear to Uribe et al. that they need us way more than we need them. Stop killing union members and such and we'll be happy to pass a free trade agreement with you. We'll even help you with your FARC problem! But don't go off half-cocked, get yourself in a bind, and expect the US to have your back. I'm sure in the event of war, John McCain and the rest of the usual suspects would pronounce us "all Colombians," but, frankly, we're really not.

No comments:

Post a Comment