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Tension in Latin America

Tension in Latin America

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This past Saturday, Colombian forces crossed into Ecuador and killed some twenty guerrilla rebels, including a top FARC leader, who were taking refuge there. Colombia officials discovered a FARC laptop which they claim contains evidence that the rebels had been seeking radioactive material to make a bomb, and that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez channeled $ 300 million to the FARC. Venezuela and Ecuador have deployed troops to their borders in response to Colombia's raid, and President Chavez called Colombia the "Israel of Latin America."

Most Latin American countries, including powerhouse Brazil, have condemned the raid and are calling on Colombia to apologize. But President Bush said we will stand by Colombia, who has been a longtime ally of the U.S. Today we will talk to Julia Sweig, Director of Latin America Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, and to Michael Evans, the Director of the Colombia Documentation Project at the National Security Archive, about the political implications of these recent events. If you have questions about the tensions between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela, or about the roles of the U.S. and the FARC, leave them here.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Does cocaine really need to be illegal? Your last guest talked about the increased rates of success with intervention. If intervention is better than arrest, should organizations like the FARC have a black market money supply?

Sent by George | 3:23 PM | 3-5-2008

I was waiting for this: President Bush seems to have said that Colombia violated international laws by attacking positions inside Ecuador. If so, how do he justify missile attacks inside Pakistan?

Sent by Michael Busby | 3:44 PM | 3-5-2008

I served in the Peace Corps in Ecuador and my wife is Ecuadorian. We, like most Ecuadorians, see Rafael Correa as one of the best presidents in Ecuadorian History, his only failing that he has been friendly with Hugo Chavez. Is it possible that this incident will wake Correa up to the dangers of aligning with Chavez, or will he dig us in deeper?

Matthew "Mateo" Stephenson

Sent by Matthew in Nashville, TN | 3:47 PM | 3-5-2008

I object to the FARC being referred to as a "left-wing" organization. What are the political motivations and agenda of the FARC? You never hear about that. I believe they are simply an organized crime group that are surviving and even thriving on lawlessness and the drug trade in Colombia. If this isn't so, what is their political agenda? Why don't they negotiate something important politically for the hostages they hold? I remember Ingrid Betancourt's husband spoke of that when he was on NPR last month. This issue should be addressed and acknowledged when examining US foreign policy especially our anti-drug policy which to me is a longtime failure.

Sent by Nancy Jackson | 3:53 PM | 3-5-2008

I'd like to know the role of the US mercenaries, that are in Colombia for several years, in this invasion of the Equador.

Sent by Sueli Viegas | 3:58 PM | 3-5-2008

I was born in Colombia and I experienced the terror and the brutality that the Farc has created in my country. Their actions have translated into an economical and a social challenge for hard working Colombians. It is very hard to understand why there are global doubts about Farc being a terrorist group when there is significant evidence of their kidnapping methods and drug trafficking procedures to support themselves. We have a mandatory draft in my country and the youth is fighting this group among other terrorist organizations on a daily basis in order to protect civilians and farmers. It is not fair that Farc members are protected by other nations because they are criminals. The fact that they receive honors in foreign lands is unethical. Thousands of innocent people have died in many horrible ways including women and children in churches-just to name one example-. There have been dialogs between the government and the Farc but this terrorist group hasn't being able to respect a truce. In addition, a territory was assigned to them back when Andres Pastrana was president and still, they didn't respect human life.
Now that the land was recuperated and the country is trying to overcome the internal war, it is absurd that now our neighbors' governments support Farc's wrong doings under their false ideology. Peace is achieved by joining the government in a parliamentary democracy, not kidnapping individuals -including children-, killing and dealing with drugs. Colombia is bleeding and now its neighbors want to cause more damage to innocent people...This is very hard to digest and I can only hope that people understand what our reality is about as Colombians terrorized by the Farc for so long.

Sent by Liliana Restrepo | 4:23 PM | 3-5-2008

From John Perkin's book "The Secret History of the American Empire" (2007), pages 149-150:

" a result of [the book] Confessions [of an Economic Hit man]...several members of the U.S. armed forces approached me with accounts of maneuvers on Colombian soil aimed at a military invasion of Venezuela. Like Brett, they were deeply concerned about the course their country was taking: they did not dare go public but they wanted the American people to hear about their experiences.

Colombia is the glaring exception to the hemispheric anti-corporatocracy movements. It has maintained its position as Washington's surrogate. Shored up by massive taxpayer assistance and armies of corporate sponsored mercenaries, as well as formal U.S. military support, it has become the keystone in Washington's attempts to regain regional domination. Although official justification for U.S. involvement centers on drug wars, this is a subterfuge for protecting oil interests against grassroots opposition to foreign exploitation."

...[the U.S. soldiers asserted that the real reasons they have been stationed in Colombia were to establish a U.S. presence and to train Latin soldiers as part of a United State commanded Southern Unified Army (a term two of the three used)."

There is so much more to the story than was just broadcast on NPR TOTN. That was said in so many words by the person from the National Security Archives. If there is any hope of redeeming the value of our country, it must be in revealing key aspects of these stories and the true nature of the role our country is playing in Colombia and the world.

Sent by Rich Walker | 4:34 PM | 3-5-2008

This is unbelievable. Colombia violates Ecuador's sovereignty and Uribe think that there should bee no consequences for his actions? and then his government raises dubious and unconfirmed claims about dirty bombs and guerrillas ties to Chavez and Correa.
Looks like Karl Rove is lending his hand to Uribe...and by the way, what about the investigation on the apparent links between Uribe and the paramilitares?
Lets look at why Uribe is isolated in South America. And why even Ms. Betancourt's husband blames him for the constant failure in peace talks!

Sent by Eric Gamboa | 5:28 PM | 3-5-2008

Interesting. Just at the moment when high level negotiations were at an advanced stage for the release of Ingrid Betancourt (the president of France involved), Colombian forces found and killed the number 2 FARC leader doing the negotiating. In fact, every time there has been encouraging news regarding this hostage, the Colombians have stepped up the violence in the conflict.
It becomes clear that Colombia's leader does not want this resolved peacefully. What the US does not allow to become clear is the US involvement in this situation. Anyone who has followed developments in the area can see though that Colombia does what Washington wants.
Ecuador's president is the first to stand up to US interests, especially oil. He is left of center, so an effort is made to show that he must be an ally of Chavez, and therefore on the wrong side. Some of the former presidents of Ecuador found safe haven in the US, after escaping from Ecuador with millions of dollars. Those were obviously seen as friends of Washington.
Now this incredible news that laptops were found with evidence that not only Chavez of Venezuela, but also the government of Ecuador was in contact with the FARC and therefore on their side. Could it be that Bush (who backs Colombian president Uribe) and cronies would benefit from this "evidence"? Even if these laptops are produced for examination, it would certainly be possible they were filled with what someone wants us to believe about Ecuador's president and others.
Beyond that, if Colombian forces backed by US intelligence can find and kill anyone they want, why do years go by and nothing is done about the drug producers in Colombia (the only US backed regime in the region), when Washington talks about the war on drugs? For that matter, why does nothing happen regarding opium production and sales in Afganistan, where the US can't pretend to not be the occupying force?

Sent by Bob Smith | 6:04 PM | 3-5-2008

Chavez needs to stay out of it - the guy is a nut - and Correa needs to deal directly with Uribe. If there are any ties between any Ecuadorian government official and the FARC then they need to be arrested.

Sent by T.V. | 7:04 PM | 3-5-2008

The timing of this military action against the FARC jeopardizes negotations for the release of hostages which might allow Chavez to upstage Uribe, perhaps motivating Uribe to prevent this.

Most dangerous for me and my fiancee is that the peace march for tomorrow, March 6, is seen now, with the acquiescence of Uribe, as a march of FARC supporters/sympathizers. Please read today's editorial in El Tiempo and related comments. The threats and intimidation and violence have been very common for the 4 million refugees/IDPs who are victims of all violence, whether guerilla, paramilitary or governmental police and military forces. Political killings occur daily and will possibly escalate in the days to come against indigenous and Afrocolombian activists. Will Bush or Uribe utter a word to protect them?

This would be a great opportunity for NPR to engage in journalism and embed yourselves among the peace activists.

Rockford, IL

Sent by Brian Ward | 8:29 AM | 3-6-2008

1.- It is clear that the FARC are a terrorist group with several horrible acts of terror including the bombing of a civilian building in the middle of the day, a children's party was going on that day in that building.

2.- It is clear that the guerrilla is hiding behind the borders of the 2 countries, that is why the raid was in Ecuadorian soil.

3.- This is a battle of the Colombian people, millions marched few weeks ago all over the world rejecting the actions of this group and is strongly rejected by the inmense majority of the population in Colombia.

4.- Some people believe that the troop mobilization by Chavez is exclusivelly to protect "tirofijo" the lider of the group who is likelly within Venezuelan territory.

Sent by Andr??s Pe??a, M.D. | 11:18 AM | 3-6-2008

I wonder why you did not feature an Ecuadorian in your in-depth discussion about FARC, Colombia, and Ecuador?

If you look up today's Times' editorial, "Take a Deep Breadth," you will notice what amounts as the same bias: Colombia should receive a slap on the wrist for their actions, while Ecuador, "must satisfy Colombia that it is not assisting the brutal guerrilla group, etc." Perhaps it is not too late to remedy this omission? Needless to say, I am Ecuadorian.
Thank you.

Sent by Pilar Enright | 11:43 AM | 3-6-2008

What are the/any long term foreseeable effects of this conflict? It seems that Venezuela is more likely to be negatively affected by cutting trade ties, but what could it mean for Colombians?

Sent by beth | 4:17 PM | 3-6-2008

I think non-violence is the best way to solve problems but when lethal acts of aggression are imminent then reasonable means can and should be employed including meeting aggression with aggression as a last resort. It is puzzling to me how some countries will allow armed groups within their borders and do nothing about them. What would the United States do if we knew about a large camp of very armed persons who were also there illegally in the mountains or a valley somewhere within our borders. Wouldn't we want to either disarm them or neutralize them. I don't think we would stand for such a group of hostiles within our borders for even one hour, yet a few countries seem to look the other way at best or even offer asylum and aid at worst to such groups. Did Ecuador not know who was inside their borders and if not why not? Columbia knew and even had coordinates and a location to attack. If Ecuador did not know they should have, and if they did know why didn't they do something about them. Allowing an armed hostile group within one's borders is a powder keg ready to explode, especially when the targets of such group are international.

Sent by Ron Wall | 5:14 PM | 3-6-2008

It trips me out how many friends in the US enemies of the us have. Here we have Chavez sticking his nose where it doesn't belong..again... Why? because for the past few years he's been trying to provoke Uribe into a fight, and Uribe hasn't taken the bait. I'm surprised at how many people have failed to see some obvious signs of just how power hungry Chavez is. As one of his own governor's asked, Where is the moment of silence for the tragic plane accident that his own people suffered so recently when over 40 Venezuelan's died in a plane crash? And Yet he takes a national moment of silence for a man directly linked with the murders and kidnappings of many people in Colombia, both influential and "regular" by-standers. Where has the Outcry been from all these kind hearted people during the past 40 years that This leftist-born organization has terrorized the Colombian people and country-side?

If Canada were harboring an Al Qaida base, would anyone question the US's crossing the border to annihilate that camp? If anything Uribe has simply taken a cue from Turkey who has found it self in a similar situation.

But returning to the really important question: What's to be done about Chavez and his dream of unifying, whether the regular people want it or not, All of the South American countries into a Socialist "Bolivarian" nation... with himself as the "risen" Bolivar? you are being foolish if you think his rhetoric is just talk. He's nudging and Goading Colombia, because they are in the way of his dream.

Sent by Josue Matos | 12:17 AM | 3-7-2008

It is not necessary to post my comment, but I would like a response. I currently have an 18 year old female from Ecuador living with us. She has been here for 8 months and will go to Ecuador in May. Is this going to be a safe environment for her return? Her family is in Ibarra. Is there any reason for concern? Thank you.

Sent by name withheld | 2:26 PM | 3-11-2008

I am watching the CNN special about Ingrid Betancourt. The program has me in tears. Is there any way that she can become secretary general to the UN? Her heroism is in keeping with Martin Luther King, Ghandi. The world needs a leader, and she has paid her dues. It sickens me that I never heard of her prior to the rescue.

Sent by Wayne Haushalter | 1:13 AM | 7-7-2008