Ecuador lobbies for support against Colombia

 

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa is visiting Brazil today in an effort to push Colombia to apologise for a military raid on its territory by Colombia which resulted in 16 deaths.

Venezuela and Ecuador have moved troops to their borders and cut diplomatic ties with Colombia, which has received backing from US President George W. Bush, while diplomats in Europe and the Americas asked all sides for calm.

Many Latin American leaders have condemned Colombia for entering Ecuador to kill FARC guerrillas on Saturday.

The crisis has pitted Correa, Venezuela's anti-US President Hugo Chavez and their allies in the left-leaning region against Colombia, which receives billions of dollars in US military aid to fight drug traffickers and guerrillas.

"The aggressor has to apologize and the international community condemn him," Correa told journalists in Brasilia last night.

"If not we will have to defend ourselves with our own means." Colombia said it has already apologized and said Correa should take responsibility for sheltering the rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the oldest insurgency in Latin America.

Chavez, who sent tanks to his country's border with Colombia, has warned war could break out, although political analysts say that is unlikely.

Conservative Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accused Chavez of genocide for sponsoring the rebels, who Chavez is openly sympathetic to.

Correa was scheduled to meet with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Wednesday before flying to Venezuela to meet with Chavez.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez also was traveling to Caracas to meet with Chavez, who calls Bush "Mr. Danger."

Venezuela briefly blocked border trade with Colombia on Tuesday but political analysts said that measure was not sustainable since Venezuela depends on its neighbor for food goods and prices could rise without Colombian imports. Bush, who rarely refers to Chavez, weighed in on the crisis on Tuesday for the first time.

He criticized Chavez's "regime" for "provocative maneuvers" and said the superpower opposed any act of aggression that could destabilize the region.

While Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru and others condemned Colombia's violation of Ecuadorean sovereignty, US diplomats worked to shift the focus to the FARC, which has killed or displaced thousands of people and kidnapped hundreds.

"We should not lose sight of the fact that it is the FARC, rather than any member state present here, that has undertaken repeated incursions and infringements of national sovereignty into the neighbors of Colombia," said Robert Manzanares, the US ambassador to the Organization of American States, which held an emergency session yesterday.