The Colombian government Thursday called off Friday’s meeting in Ecuador due to the decision of an Ecuadorian judge to charge Armed Forces commander, Freddy Padilla de Leon, for the attack on a FARC encampment in Ecuador last year.
Colombian Minister of Defense Gabriel Silva called the Ecuadorian determination to pursue the General “judicial assault” and confirmed that the meeting, to be held in the Ecuadorian town of Ibarra Friday to discuss the resumption of diplomatic ties, was cancelled.
“We have [suspended] the Combifron. It is not possible to send officials to a meeting in Ibarra while a sword of Damocles hangs over their head,” Silva said. He added that Colombia does not want officers to attend the event in case they become “cannon fodder [for] a legal-political spectacle in Ecuador. That’s unacceptable.”
He said that Padilla de Leon’s visit to Ecuador was cancelled, and that Quito should prevent such behaviors of the justice system, which continues to put “obstacles” in the path of restructuring relations between the two countries.
“You hear the public statements of the prosecutor, of the judge, and you realize that this is a performance fully mediated by politicization and populism and has no legal basis,” the Defense Minister declared.
Silva said Colombia’s position has been clear since the Ecuadorian courts ordered the arrest of former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, who was in office at the time of the March 2008 bombing, and said that no effort would be spared to protect staff and Former Colombian officials.
“Colombia is outraged with this whole new legal assault,” he added, as reported by news source CMI.
The Ecuadorian court could also charge Air Force Commander General Jorge Ballesteros, and National Police Director General Oscar Naranjo for their part in the attack, reported newspaper El Espectador.
Minister Silva confirmed that Colombia’s delivery of information regarding the suspected whereabouts of FARC camps within Ecuador was yet to be defined. The handover was due to occur at Friday’s meeting.
“The Government of Ecuador has manifested, expressed itself, and behaved in a way that gives us confidence to move forward; now come these challenges. Finally, as the Bible says, you shall know them by their actions,” quoted Silva.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Wednesday rejected the decision of an Ecuadorian judge to try General Padilla de Leon for the March 2008 bombing of the FARC encampment within Ecuador’s borders. During the attack 25 people were killed, including the FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes, four Mexican students and an Ecuadorian civilian.
Uribe hoped that the diplomatic efforts of the Foreign Ministries of Colombia and Ecuador would resolve the impasse between the two countries following the announcement of the charges.
For his part, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Fander Falconi said that “we have a political will to move forward, to build on these discussions we are having with Colombia, allowing a normalization of diplomatic relations. … Executive function has no power to appoint, to intervene, control or decide on the prosecution … in that sense, this corresponds to an autonomous decision of the Ecuadorian courts,” he said, as reported by El Espectador.
The determination of the Ecuadorian court represents a new chapter in the tense relations between Bogota and Quito. The two governments continue to attempt to restore relations by a “road map” devised at UN headquarters in New York.
Ecuador is Colombia’s third-most important trade partner and the two countries share a border of over 580 kilometers.