Ecuador’s minister of security, Homero Arellano, said Monday that his country is taking steps to strengthen security at its shared border with Colombia in order to reduce smuggling and the presence of illegal armed groups.
He pledged “to conduct parallel operations in Colombia and Ecuador to reduce high-impact violence.” Other measures aimed at combating FARC presence near the 700km border, which is mostly jungle terrain, include the installment of video surveillance equipment near the border that will be monitored at a new security facility called the Tulcan Center for Integrated Security.
Arellano also promised that the continued exchange of information between the two countries will help to reduce most common crime near the volatile border region.
In April, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa announced plans to identify and eliminate any FARC presence within his country. The porous border region has been a point of contention for both countries’ administrations in the past. Colombia’s pursuit of FARC rebels within Ecuadorian borders caused a diplomatic crisis between the two South American neighbors in 2008.
Colombian forces, under the guidance of then- defense minister, now President Juan Manuel Santos, crossed into Ecuador and killed 21 alleged rebels, including FARC’s second-in-command Luis Edgar Devia Silva, alias “Raul Reyes.”
Colombian officials accused Ecuador and Venezuela of harboring the guerrilla group. Correa fervently denied the claims and was outraged over a move he thought infringed upon his country’s sovereignty.
Tensions have cooled since the 2010 election of Santos, who blamed his predecessor, Alvaro Uribe for not making enough effort to bolster diplomacy between the two nations.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that there are around 115,000 Colombian refugees in Ecuador. More than half of those are thought to be undocumented. Most refugees flee fighting in the departments of Cauca and Valle del Cauca, where violence has increased over the past year.