Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced Monday that relations between Ecuador and Colombia were improving now there was a “serious and respectful government” headed by his counterpart, President Juan Manuel Santos.
After his first meeting with Santos in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, Correa said that relations between the two countries were better under the current governments, and criticized former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for not improving diplomacy under his.
Santos and Correa also formally announced the restoration of trade relations and more open border crossings, which both governments have neglected for years. To further improve bilateral trade, they agreed to cut airline prices between Quito and Bogota as well as restore bridges along the border for better transportation routes.
In attempt to clear up past disputes, the Ecuadorian head of state insisted that he had never been alerted to a guerrilla presence on his side of the border in 2008, when Colombian troops entered the country and carried out a military offensive that killed FARC leader “Raul Reyes.” The attack was led by Santos when he was the Defense Minister under Uribe.
Correa indicated he was willing to submit to a polygraph test on the issue if Uribe did the same to deny his ties with paramilitaries, saying, “I submit to a polygraph to ask me if I have anything to do with the FARC or not… provided that Uribe is brought before the same polygraph to say he has something to do with the paramilitaries.”
When Uribe was governor of Antioquia, he enthusiastically advocated the controversial CONVIVIR program, which was aimed at protecting civilians against guerrillas. Many of the “citizen defense groups” set up under CONVIVIR, which were armed and supported by the military, rapidly evolved into paramilitary organizations. That is what Correa is accusing Uribe of supporting.
After the military raid in 2008, Correa warned Colombia against any further attacks on Ecuadorian soil, and called for the arrest of Santos alongside Colombia’s National Police Director General Oscar Naranjo and other officials for the cross-border raid.