Who are the hostile countries of Colombia

Latin America: Reactions of Non-Involved Countries to the Colombia Conflict

Author: Florian Quitzsch | April 2008 | Recommend article

The calls for an amicable solution mediated by the Organization of American States (OAS) [1] and the Rio Group [2] to resolve the conflict between Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela at the beginning of March 2008 could be heard in Latin America from almost all countries. In addition to Brazil, Chile in particular stood out to mediate de-escalating in the tense situation. Even if Colombia is seen as a vassal of the United States by not a few left-wing and US-critical politicians in Latin America, most countries have held back with excessive or polemical criticism of the Colombian approach.

From Chile, which since the return to democracy has always tried to gain a good reputation on the international stage and which has already made various contributions to UN missions, cautious remarks were heard regarding an appeal by the Colombian side to apologize for the border violation. The efforts to negotiate offers were much more in the foreground. The Chilean head of state and government Michelle Bachelet therefore met with her Ecuadorian counterpart Rafael Correa to discuss the situation on site.

Cautious critical tones could be heard from Peru. One important reason is the priority that Peru's foreign relations with the US are normally given. Due to the anti-terrorist struggle against the Sendero Luminoso that has been waged in one's own country in the past, approval of the Colombian state's action towards the FARC is likely to be expressed in daily political affairs. President Alan Garcia, who also met with Rafael Correa, disapproved of the Colombian action and called for an apology for the violation of Ecuadorian territorial sovereignty.

One of the few Latin American countries that openly supported the Colombian approach was El Salvador. Its President Tony Saca González announced that Colombia had the legitimate right to prosecute terrorists wherever they may be; but with the restriction not to violate the sovereignty of another country.

Critical voices, on the other hand, were heard from Bolivia and Cuba. The Bolivian President Evo Morales called for an extraordinary meeting of the Union of South American States (Unasur) because of the crisis. At the same time, however, he used the opportunity to accuse the USA of promoting the destabilization of the region and fueling political conflicts under false labels such as “communism”, “drug trafficking” or “terrorism”. Fidel Castro, the recently resigned Cuban head of state, criticized the United States and accused them of provoking a crisis in the region. The statements must also be seen in connection with a report in the Miami newspaper El Nuevo Herald on March 11th. The Cuban press reported on the alleged involvement of a Cuban resident in Mexico in the FARC supporting activities.

If one wants to get something positive out of the crisis, it is probably the functioning of conflict resolution mechanisms in the region. Shortly after the escalation, a special meeting of the OAS was called at the request of Ecuador. The crisis was defused a week after it broke out on the XX. Summit of the Rio Group in the Dominican Republic. Despite the initially hostile mood between Chavez, Correa and Uribe, the diplomatic skills of host Leonel Fernández and the interventions of the heads of state of Mexico and Argentina, Felipe Calderón and Christina Kirchner, seem to have contributed to the relaxation and temporary reconciliation. Thereupon Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega also withdrew the announcement that he wanted to break off diplomatic relations with Colombia. Fidel Castro's opinion was also not long in coming, as he immediately postulated that US imperialism was the only loser in the crisis.

As a diplomatic footnote, it must be mentioned that the resolutions published by the Rio Group and the OAS on the conflict condemn the violation of the Ecuadorian border, but not the Colombian approach. A direct criticism of the government of Alvaro Uribe by the OAS was prevented by the veto of the US representation in the organization. Originally, Washington and Bogotá even wanted to avoid mentioning Colombia in the declaration altogether.

But what remains besides the bitter aftertaste of the political conflict and a brief military saber rattle, which should not have contributed to the stabilization of the relationship between Venezuela, Nicaragua and other countries on the one hand and Colombia and the USA on the other?

The German-born sociologist and former unofficial Chávez advisor Heinz Dieterich sees the South American integration goals of progressive countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Venezuela being inspired by the crisis. Another consequence could be, according to Dieterich in an interview with Inter Press Service [3], that the Latin American countries - but also the EU - are convinced that the solution of the inner-Colombian conflict that is destabilizing the region will not be left to Uribe and Washington alone. Other observers note the increasing isolation of the right-wing Colombian government, Washington's closest ally in the region. The Nicaraguan sociologist Óscar René Vargas suspected that Colombia and the USA wanted to destabilize Ecuador and Venezuela. But now Uribe is more isolated in Latin America than before. Should this really be the case, it would not only have contributed to the left-wing leaders Correa, Chávez and Ortega, but also the more moderate governments of Argentina, Brazil and Chile.


[1] Regional alliance of the Americas. All 34 states of the (South and North) American continent are members (Cuba was excluded from the activities of the OAS in 1962). Objectives: domestic American assistance, dispute settlement and economic and cultural cooperation.

[2] Consultation mechanism launched in 1986 to which 21 countries in South and Central America currently belong and which has become a regular, close political and economic process.

[3] See http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=41456 [accessed March 24, 2008].

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