Colombia and Venezuela Carefully Move Back Bellicosity

On July 15, 2010, Colombia filed a formal complaint with the Organization of American States (OAS) accusing neighboring Venezuela of harboring upwards of 1,500 FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) fighters as well as ELN (Ejército de Liberación Nacional) rebels. Colombia’s Defense Minister, Gabriel Silva Luján, indicated that Colombia possessed evidence supposedly proving the presence of the insurgents on the Venezuelan side of the boarder. The accusations were made soon after Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia’s president-elect, revealed his desire to normalize relations with Venezuela.

The previous Colombian president, strongman Álvaro Uribe, brought Bogota’s concerns directly to the OAS, bypassing all bilateral talks with Caracas. Through multilateral diplomacy, the OAS aims to defuse regional tensions; however, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez cut off all diplomatic ties with Colombia once the meeting of the regional body terminated. With Colombia’s livelihood already heavily impacted by long disintegrating ties with Venezuela, many anticipate further degenerated economic lifelines between the two countries.

Specialists have cautioned Colombia to be wary of its actions after its 2008 bombing of a jungle area on Ecuador’s side of the border when Bogotá unleashed one of its special military units to attack a small group of FARC insurgents encamped there. The Colombian Minister of Defense at the time of the attack, and now President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, still has a warrant for his arrest if he sets foot in Ecuador. Although they falsely deny the violations, paramilitaries in Colombia previously have been found responsible for dressing up innocent and completely uninvolved Colombian civilians as FARC members and transporting them into Ecuador, where they were suddenly gunned down by military units. Human Rights Watch wrote, “Under pressure to demonstrate results, army members apparently take civilians from their homes or workplaces, kill them, and then dress them up to claim they were combatants killed in actions.” Investigations of thousands of similar cases date back to mid-2003, placing more suspicion on Colombia’s charges against Venezuela.

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