tirsdag, mars 04, 2008

Colombia: Friendly relations?

The situation is currently heating up in Colombia. Violating another country's territorial sovereignty is simply not the done thing. And that was what went down a couple of days ago. Colombian planes, while not themselves crossing into Ecuadorian airspace, their payload certainly did, and duly obliterated a patch of Ecuadorian soil. The target was FARC number two man Raul Reyes, who was killed along with a dozen guerrillas. Colombian forces then crossed the border to retrieve his body. The whole operation acted upon CIA-provided information, and was hailed as a successful blow against FARC by the Uribe government.

Naturally Ecuador did not enjoy this brief incursion, issued a strong complaint, closed the embassy and mobilised forces along the border, as did Chavez. Venezuela of course has a long history of unfriendly relations with their neighbours, and the Colombians presenting evidence of Chavez funding FARC is not improving matters. Worse, according to Bogota FARC has plans of building a dirty bomb, although the use of such a barbaric weapon seems extremely counterproductive to gaining popularity in a civil war.

At the moment then, tension is high. All the other South-American countries are appealing for peace and to avoid a confrontation. An armed conflict is simply bad for everyone, particularly so for Venezuela, whose military though much touted by the US as a major threat, is really something of paper tiger despite Chavez’ money-spending policies of guns over butter. In addition to the purges when Chavez took power they have no combat experience, in contrast to the Colombians who have been fighting a low-intensity civil war for decades. And of course, Colombia can rely on assistance from their big brother gringo allies, who would see a war as a wonderful opportunity to finally topple Chavez.

But a war would also be a tragedy for Colombia, its economy been steadily improving the last decade, crime has been massively reduced and generally people are positive about the future. An example is Medellin, where the local government has a commendable progressive policy of building libraries in the poorer areas, as pictured above. Furthermore, in spite of the horrible image the country has abroad, it is not any more a dangerous place to visit than say London or Barcelona. Unless of course, one has a particular predilection for long jungle treks. The country is something of a rare beast; a stable country in a civil war. A real war could destroy much of the gains from the last decade of reconstruction.

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