Venezuela, Ecuador deploy troops in Colombia dispute
By Saul Hudson and Alonso Soto
CARACAS/QUITO (Reuters) - Venezuela and Ecuador sent troops to their borders with Colombia and downgraded diplomatic ties after their Andean neighbor bombed Colombian rebels inside Ecuador in an attack Caracas said could spark a war.
Escalating the worst dispute in the region for years, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez deployed tanks to the frontier and mobilized warplanes, while President Rafael Correa bolstered Ecuador's military presence along the border.
Chavez ordered Venezuela's embassy in Bogota to be shut indefinitely from Monday and withdrew all of his diplomats.
Correa, a fellow leftist and close ally of the anti-U.S. Chavez, expelled Colombia's ambassador and recalled his own envoy in protest over what he said was a calculated violation of his small nation's sovereignty.
"May God spare us a war. But we are not going to allow them to violate our sovereign territory," Chavez, an ex-paratrooper said, warning he would attack Colombia with Russia-made jets if his neighbor carried out a raid in his OPEC country.
Colombia apologized to Ecuador for the troops crossing the frontier, but said the attack on a rebel camp was necessary after its forces came under fire from across the border.
But Colombia, a U.S. ally, also said it found documents at the jungle camp that linked the leftist government of Correa to the Marxist guerrillas -- a charge Ecuador dismissed because the evidence was not presented for public scrutiny.
Colombia's troops killed on Saturday Raul Reyes, a leader of Marxist FARC rebels, during an attack that included air strikes and ground combat against a jungle camp in Ecuador in a severe blow to Latin America's oldest guerrilla insurgency.
Chavez and Correa said Colombian President Alvaro Uribe lied about the attack a few miles (kilometers) inside Ecuador.
Correa said planes bombed rebels from Ecuador's airspace while they slept and helicopters flew troops into the camp.
"This was a massacre ... We will not allow this to go unpunished," he said.
Venezuela's military went on alert "on land, in the air and at sea" and will support Ecuador "to the last," Chavez said.
Washington, which backs Uribe's fight against the rebels with its largest military aid outside the Middle East, said it was monitoring developments after Chavez's "odd reaction."
France, which has worked to free rebel-held hostages, called for restraint on all sides.
Political analysts said a conflict was unlikely because Chavez -- the leader of Andean leftists -- was more interested in firing up his base of support with rhetoric against Colombia. Despite his risky tactics, amid chronic food shortages he can ill afford to lose imports from Colombia, they added.
"We believe a military conflict between the two nations is unlikely at this stage but the growing political tension sets the stage for a potential overreaction to future events increasing the risk of costly miscalculations and missteps," Goldman Sachs economist Alberto Ramos said.
(Additional reporting by Patrick Markey in Bogota; Writing by Saul Hudson, editing by Jackie Frank)
I certainly don't wish war on anyone. I don't want young soldiers to risk their lives, don't want wives, and parents, and children to lose their loved ones... I don't want innocent families and their homelands ravaged by war.... BUT, with that said, let him go to war.
Let the greedy dictatorial leader of my husband's homeland go to war with a US ally. Let the man who praises himself as the poor man's president ruin more of his own country. The people already united against him in recent elections, allow them to get good and mad over this situation and revolt against him.
If you don't know what's going on, a quick lesson on the details: he may not be gassing Jews, but the idea is the same. Like Hitler, Chavez wants to rule the world. He believes that his dictatorship of Venezuela should reach far and wide and that he should rule South America, running out or overthrowing democratic governments in his path. While he has been trying to show himself in a popular light by saying he is negotiating FARC hostage releases, he is also supplying FARC rebels with artillery, and safe haven in Venezuela. Some of the world's worst crminals can find refuge in Venezuela with Chavez... whats that old adage, 'birds of a feather flock together'?
In his attempt to socialize Venezuela, he has taken from the rich but has not even given to the poor! He continues to pad his own pocketbooks, as if he didn't have enough with the outrageous cost of oil that he charges as his country is one of the world's largest supplier of crude oil (of which the U.S. buys, by the way).
He has almost completely cut out imports from anyone other than his communist buddies, China namely, and continues building his great 'friendship' with Iran. Ahmadinejad and Chavez together are even forming their own bank! The people of friendly Venezuela are being robbed of their rights, their freedoms, their futures, and even their groceries! Chavez continues to charge outrageous money for his oil, Venezuela should be the richest country in the region, yet the majority of its people are still among the poorest. Rich or poor alike, all are unable to buy groceries at will, being rationed to 2 kilos of meat per family, 1 gallon of milk per week... Things like that... while their president rakes in the cash.
Now he's threatening war against Colombia. I have very mixed feelings about this latest development, for very personal reasons. My family lives very close to the border where he has sent troops. War would be devastating to the hard-working people near the borders who have given their lives to run ranches and businesses that their ancestors have passed down for generations.
However, the same people who could possibly lose everything with war, will lose it eventually anyways, as Chavez is systematically citing eminent domain and essentially 'stealing land' from large landowners and making life impossible. The fortunes of yesteryear and the land of their ancestry is being pulled out from under the hard-working Venezuelans by a dictator.
So, perhaps the threat of war is a good thing. Perhaps this is the only way to overthrow this dictatorial government before he gets nuclear warheads from Iran pointed right at US soil (and don't think thats not coming folks)... most people don't realize how significant Venezuela is to the United States.