Friday, March 7, 2008
Peace in the Andes
Handshakes between the presidents of Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela marked the apparent end of a diplomatic crisis that had brought the Andean countries to the brink of war. Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, shook hands with Colombian president Alvaro Uribe at a summit in the Dominican Republic — a gesture that seemed impossible as late as yesterday as the two nations, plus Venezuela, mobilized troops to their borders. The war posturing was triggered by a cross-border attack by Colombia, the strongest ally of the United States in the region, against Marxist rebels in Ecuador. Ecuador reacted by breaking diplomatic relations with Colombia, and Venezuela, led by its anti-United States president, Hugo Chavez, immediately followed suit and moved troops to the border. The Organization of American States tried but failed to resolve the crisis. "And with this . . . this incident that has caused so much damage (is) resolved," the leftist Correa said as he stood up to shake hands with Uribe, according to the Reuters international news service. Even Chavez, who blamed the United States for the crisis, applauded loudly before shaking hands with Uribe. The agreement came after Uribe apologized to Correa for the incursion under pressure from a long list of Central and South American countries, including Mexico and Brazil. The handshake was televised across Latin America. "This summit was a gift from God," Chavez said, according to Reuters. "We are all happy." Even Fidel Castro of Cuba, a Chavez ally, praised the agreement.