WASHINGTON – After 14 hours of debate, the Organization of American States approved on Tuesday – with U.S. misgivings – a resolution that seeks to settle an 18-day diplomatic crisis over a Colombian raid into a guerrilla camp in Ecuador.
The resolution by foreign ministers of the 34-member hemispheric institution “rejects” the March 1 bombing and military incursion in which 25 persons died, including one Colombian soldier, several Mexican citizens and members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
In a footnote, the United States said it supported “this resolution’s effort to build confidence between Colombia and Ecuador to address the underlying crisis” but did not take into account other treaties that give a country a right to self-defense.
The incident led to troop mobilizations by Ecuador and Venezuela and the region’s most serious crisis in more than a decade, although tensions eased after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a firm U.S. ally, struck a handshake deal with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa at a March 8 Rio Group leaders summit in the Dominican Republic.
The OAS meeting was viewed as an occasion to enshrine those commitments in writing. But this proved hard as diplomats struggled to draft a text that satisfied both Colombia and U.S. desires for countries to act against armed groups and Ecuador’s insistence that the incursion be condemned in strong terms.
Foreign ministers who were not directly involved in the negotiations could be seen walking the OAS hallways, looking bored. The U.S. delegation was led by Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte.
Finally, just past 1 a.m. Tuesday, the OAS announced a deal.
The text notes that Colombia pledges that its action “would not be repeated under any circumstances.” It also commits countries to “to combat threats to security caused by the actions of irregular groups or criminal organizations, especially those associated with drug trafficking.”
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza is instructed to establish mechanisms to better monitor the common border.
The raid was a military success for Colombia. Raul Reyes, the FARC’s No. 2 leader, died and several computers, hard discs and other devices produced an intelligence treasure trove, suggesting links between the guerrilla group and the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador were deeper than previously believed.
The Ecuadoreans say Colombia is manipulating the media with selective leaks of information gleaned from the computers.
The Ecuadorean foreign minister, Maria Isabel Salvador, said the text was “a resounding triumph of truth.”