Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said
Saturday he accepts his Colombian counterpart’s apology for a
cross-border raid 17 months ago, but said bilateral ties can only be
fully restored if Bogota meets certain conditions.
Correa, in his weekly Saturday radio address, opened the door for
normalizing diplomatic relations with President Alvaro Uribe’s
government, although he also criticized an agreement to allow U.S. troops access to seven Colombian military bases, saying it could
destabilize the entire region.
The Ecuadorian president even said he would be willing to shake
the Colombian leader’s hand if the latter makes good on promises he
said Uribe made at a regional summit after the Colombian army’s
March 1, 2008 bombardment of a clandestine guerrilla camp in
Twenty-six people died in that operation, including the No. 2 of
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Raul Reyes;
Mexican university students; and an Ecuadorian citizen.
In the wake of that attack, which Quito said was a violation of
its sovereignty, Ecuador and close ally Venezuela broke off ties
with Colombia and sent troops to their respective borders, although
a summit in the Dominican Republic shortly after the bombing served
to lower tensions.
“This matter of our incursion into the Ecuadorian jungle in that
bombing against Reyes, I apologize for that. We told (Correa) in the
Dominican Republic,” Uribe said Friday at a gathering of the
National Business Association of Colombia in the northwestern
Colombian city of Medellin.
“I think there can be a dialogue with Ecuador,” Uribe said,
adding that “the same goes for Venezuela.”
Correa recalled that Uribe apologized for the unauthorized
intrusion into Ecuadorian territory at the Rio Group summit and
promised to meet certain conditions for restoring full diplomatic
“President Uribe (on Friday) once again apologized; we accept,
but it must be an apology (accompanied by action). There are a
series of commitments President Uribe has made and has not followed
through on,” Correa said.
They include turning over the videos of the bombardment – carried
out with U.S. smart bombs – as well as the hard drives of the
“famous computers” found at the guerrilla camp and determined by
Interpol to belong to Reyes.
Correa also demanded that Colombia “stop linking” the Ecuadorian
government with the FARC, although he said that Colombia has stepped
up its accusations in recent days.
Colombian authorities say documents found on several laptops
found at the clandestine camp prove links between the FARC and the
leftist governments of Venezuela and Ecuador.
But while Interpol confirmed the computers belonged to Reyes, the
international police agency also found that new files had been
created and destroyed after the laptops were captured.
According to Correa, there’s a “double standard” on Colombia’s
part in presenting a speech (found on one of the laptops) by current
FARC No. 2 “Mono Jojoy to confirm Ecuador’s supposed ties with the
FARC, while discrediting the denial of those ties by the current No. 1 of that guerrilla group, Alfonso Cano.
Cano said in a recent interview with a Colombian magazine that
the FARC – deemed a terror group by Washington, Bogota and the
European Union – did not contribute to Correa’s 2006 presidential
campaign because the group didn’t even know who he was at the time.
“When ‘Mono Jojoy’ say they (contributed money to my) campaign,
(Bogota says) ‘there’s the irrefutable proof that Correa has ties to
the FARC’; when Alfonso Cano says he doesn’t know me and that he
hasn’t given two cents to the campaign, then (the Uribe government
says) ‘why should we pay attention to a criminal,'” Correa said.
“So, one’s a criminal and the other isn’t? That the double
standard” used by Colombia, Correa said.
Correa also conditioned a resumption of dialogue on Uribe
“stopping those hawkish groups in Colombia who still want to
maintain the doctrine of preventative war, of being able to attack
the FARC in any country.”
“Let’s talk to resume relations, reduce tensions between the two
countries, which don’t help anyone, but I’ve always said “we’re not
going to repair (relations) without justice or dignity,” Correa
“I could never fraternally embrace the man who bombed my country,
but as a gentleman I could shake the hand of the representative of a
brotherly country and a brotherly people,” the head of state said.
Relations between conservative-governed Colombia and its
leftist-ruled neighbors, Venezuela and Ecuador, have soured further
in recent weeks due to Bogota’s decision to allow U.S. troops to use
seven of its military bases.
Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez – who was briefly
ousted in a 2002 coup, which he claims the U.S. government supported
– says the base deal represents a threat to his country and could
spark a war in the region.
Colombia, however, contends Venezuela has nothing to fear and
maintains the agreement will bolster the fight against drug
trafficking and terrorist activity and is necessary after Ecuador
ended a lease allowing U.S. access to a base in that country.
Chavez also recently threatened to freeze all diplomatic and
trade ties with Colombia after the Uribe government insinuated that
rocket launchers found during a raid on a FARC camp had been
provided to the rebels by Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government responded by recalling his ambassador.
Chavez has since sent the diplomat back to his post, but he has also
ended a deal to sell cheap gasoline to a Colombian border region and
started to look to other countries to replace imports from Colombia.