3 maart 2008

Is war brewing in Latin America? (Brigant)

It almost went unnoticed in Europe. Raul Reyes, a high ranking FARC commander, was killed by Colombian forces during an airstrike on a FARC base in Ecuador. Colombian forces were then engaged by FARC rebels, leading to a ground penetration into Ecuador by Colombian forces to retrieve the body of Reyes & conduct intelligence gathering.

Obviously, Ecuador was not amuzed. Venezuela neither, as Reyes was a key person for releasing FARC-held prisoners. Both countries reacted by sending troops to the Colombian border.

More importantly: The raid seemingly revealed links between the Ecuadorian government and FARC.
"Naranjo said some documents recovered on the computer describe "links of the FARC particularly with the government of President Correa" of Ecuador. He said the documents appear to have been written by Reyes to other senior FARC leaders.

The documents show that Ecuador's minister of security met recently with Reyes, Naranjo said, and that Ecuador had "an interest in formalizing relations with the FARC," Naranjo said, according to an account published on a Colombian government Web site." (CNN).

Which contradicts Correa's stance of 'arresting the FARC' and remaining uninvolved in Colombia's struggle with the FARC.

UPDATE: Naranjo also said that Hugo Chavez, thus Venezuela, gave 300 million $ to the FARC:
"He said evidence was found on computers confiscated from the rebel camp of Raul Reyes, the number two of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) who was killed Saturday in an operation by the Colombian military on Ecuadorian soil.

General Naranjo said a report submitted to the rebel leadership by FARC leader Ivan Marquez spoke of Chavez's contribution, following a two-day meeting with Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin." en "He also noted that FARC gave some 50,000 dollars to Chavez when he was in prison in the 1990s, following a failed military coup in Venezuela." (Monsters & Critics)

Hugo Chavez is having trouble restraining himself as well, but that's normal on his weekly Sunday TV show:<<After observing a moment of silence during his program Sunday in honour of the slain guerrillas, Chavez praised Reyes as "a true revolutionary," recalling he met the former trade union leader in Brazil in 1995.

Chavez called Uribe's government "the Israel of Latin America," criticizing the Jewish state's military strikes on Palestinian militants.

"We aren't going to permit Colombia to become the Israel of these lands," he said.

"We have to liberate Colombia" from U.S. dominance, he added.">>

It is interesting that Chavez calls Colombia the Israel of Latin America. Tensions between Venezuela and Colombia have been rising for some time, partially due to accusations of Chavez's meddling into Colombia's FARC problem. Uribe and Chavez have been holding pissing contests on the FARC prisoner issue, with Chavez pushing for 'negociations and a peaceful settlement' whilst Uribe prefers to use military engagement.

Colombia bought 24 Israeli Kfir C.10's, on 6 February 2008 in response to Venezuelan purchases, and both are strengthening 'relations'. The Venezuelan buys also led to an increase of the Brazilian defense budget from 3.5 to 5 billion US$. The Kfirs are probably the best multirole aircraft the Colombians have in service, but will it match the Venezuelan Su-30's? Unlikely. The Kfirs will match the Ecuadorian Kfirs in service.

Let's look at some maps:
This map comes from Le Monde Diplomatique, was published in 2000. What do we notice?

We notice that FARC's influence spreads from Ecuador to Venezuela.

Let's try a Drug smuggling route? (Latinamericanstudies.org) also published here (2001).

Let's take a more recent map? 2006.
Not a lot has changed. Mainly Ecuador and Venezuela seem to be the regions most likely for a spill-over of the Colombian conflict or for foreign logistic support. For now it is mainly rethoric, but I do not deem it to be wise on the Uribe/Colombia side of things to provoke war onto its neighbors or to call their bluff. Chavez could use a foreign enemy (besides the US) to blame a failing policy too. War costs money, hurts the economy so that wouldn't be a very 'smart' choice unless you absolutely want to remain in power (and impose a military dictature). If war would ensue, I would put my money on Chavez as instigator. Correa has Ecuador to handle.

We'll have to wait and see on how things will evolve.

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