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Cablegate: March 6 Update: Colombia Dispute with Ecuador And

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PREF PTER MOPS ETRD VZ FR SP SZ EC NU
CO
SUBJECT: MARCH 6 UPDATE: COLOMBIA DISPUTE WITH ECUADOR AND
VENEZUELA

REF: BOGOTA 839 AND PREVIOUS

SUMMARY
-------

1. (U) Venezuela continued to restrict the import of
Colombian goods and people into Venezuela in response to the
GOC's March 1 attack against the FARC in Ecuador (reftel).
Still, the flow of food and other perishable products
continued. Businessmen reported GOV authorities were lifting
restrictions in some areas due to shortages. The border with
Ecuador remained open. Meanwhile, on March 6, Nicaraguan
President Daniel Ortega announced he would break diplomatic
relations with Colombia. The GOC said it would expect full
and fair payment in the event of Venezuelan nationalization
of Colombian firms. The GOC detailed 39 cases of FARC
attacks against Colombian forces from Ecuador from 2004-2008,
resulting in 20 members of the security forces killed. END
SUMMARY.


BORDERS: SOME GOV RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE, ECUADOR OPEN
--------------------------------------------- --------

2. (U) The Colombian border with Venezuela remained only
partially open on March 6, with most food, medicine, and
other perishables passing into Venezuela. Other goods are
restricted, and the entry of people into Venezuela from Cesar
and Arauca was delayed by backups for visas/permits. The
border with Ecuador remained open. The GOV blocked
contraband gasoline shipments into far-northen Guajira
Department, causing local protests after the prices rose from
approximately $1.60 to $2.40 per gallon. National Industrial
Association President Luis Carlos Villegas told us he already
sees evidence that Venezuelan consumers are feeling the pinch
of limited border closures, forcing local GOV officials to
relax some restrictions. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega,
speaking after a March 6 meeting with President Rafael
Correa, announced he would break diplomatic relations with
Colombia.


GOC REACTS TO CHAVEZ NATIONALIZATION THREAT
-------------------------------------------

3. (U) In response to President Chavez' March 5 threats to
nationalize Colombian investments in Venezuela, Colombian
Finance Minister Oscar Zuluaga said Colombian business could
face a "difficult situation," but would expect full payment
from Venezuela for any nationalizations. Colombia's
Ambassador to the OAS Camilo Ospina added that Colombia would
take any unfair nationalizations to international tribunals
or arbitration--citing the Exxon-Mobil case.


GOC CONTINUES TO MAKE ITS CASE
------------------------------

4. (U) The GOC continued to make its case for the March 1
attack in Ecuador against FARC secretariat member Raul Reyes,
as MFA officials told us President Alvaro Uribe left early
for the Rio Group meeting in the Dominican Republic to meet
with foreign leaders. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos
released figures showing 39 documented cases of FARC attacks
against Colombia from Ecuadorian territory between 2004-2008,
resulting in 20 Colombian soldiers/police killed and 16
wounded. Santos said various GOC entities had communicated
on dozens of occasions with the Ecuadorian Government to
protest the FARC's presence in Ecuador or to denounce FARC
attacks from Ecuadorian territory. The GOC received few
responses. Ospina added from Washington that Ecuador and
Venezuela could be sanctioned by the OAS for "sponsorship of
terrorism" once all evidence against them was reviewed.


REACTION TO OAS RESOLUTION
--------------------------

5. (SBU) Local media called the OAS resolution on the Reyes
attack "bittersweet," and credited Colombian Ambassador to
the OAS Camilo Ospina for negotiating a "benign" result.
Commentators also praised the OAS' decision to examine the

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facts surrounding the case from both sides of the border,
including the numerous FARC camps inside Ecuador and evidence
seized from Reyes' computers. Former Foreign Minister
Augusto Ramirez Ocampo voiced satisfaction with the outcome
in the OAS, but said the increasingly close ties between
Presidents Correa and Chavez are worrying. Only three weeks
ago, GOC policy makers were congratulating themselves on
their ability to separate Correa from Chavez.

Brownfield

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