Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Response to a Crisis

Magazine article Americas (English Edition)

Response to a Crisis

Article excerpt


THE OAS IS PLAYING a critical role in efforts to reestablish an "atmosphere of trust" between Colombia and Ecuador, following one of the most serious political crises in South America in recent years. A special OAS mission, announced at the end of March, will work in Bogota and Quito to implement measures designed to strengthen bilateral relations.

"At this time, it is a matter of absolute priority to recreate trust between both countries," OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said, in announcing the creation of the mission. "Behind all of this lies a fundamental reality: The countries of the region do not want a conflict in the Americas. There is a consensus among all of them in that they do not want the current situation to escalate or the basic principles of our coexistence to be put at risk."

The mission was formed in response to a resolution adopted at a rare Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs--such meetings are convened to address situations in the region of an urgent nature--held in mid-March at OAS headquarters in Washington.

The crisis began with an incursion by Colombian military and police personnel into Ecuadorian territory on March 1, to attack a clandestine encampment of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Ecuador protested the violation of its territorial sovereignty and broke off diplomatic relations with Colombia.

On March 4, the OAS Permanent Council held an emergency meeting to address the situation. After intense negotiations that extended into a second day, the diplomats approved a resolution reaffirming the principle that "the territory of a state is inviolable and may not be the object, even temporarily, of military occupation or of other measures of force taken by another state, directly or indirectly, on any grounds whatsoever." The Permanent Council established a commission, headed by Secretary General Insulza, to visit both countries (see related story), and convened a Meeting of Consultation for March 17.

Meanwhile, tensions between Colombia and Ecuador were defused substantially on March 7 at a presidential summit of the Rio Group--a bloc of Latin American countries--at which President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia apologized for the cross-border incursion and pledged that it would not happen again. Uribe and President Rafael Correa of Ecuador shook hands at the meeting, which was held in the Dominican Republic.

The Rio Group also adopted a declaration in support of efforts by the OAS and Secretary General Insulza to address the crisis.

Under the OAS Charter, one essential purpose of the hemispheric body is to "strengthen the peace and security of the continent" and to "ensure the pacific settlement of disputes" among the member countries. …

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