Bush backs Colombia as troops near border

March 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Diplomacy failing, tension rising and troops moving in Latin America. President Bush says the U.S. will support Colombia in an escalating dispute. Troops from Venezuela and Ecuador are gathering on the border with Colombia.

Troops in Ecuador and Venezuela continued to reinforce their borders with Colombia after Colombian troops attacked a leftist guerrilla base on Ecuadorean soil over the weekend.

"I told the president that America fully supports Colombia's democracy," said President Bush.

Tuesday, President Bush made it clear that the United States stands with its ally, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

"We firmly oppose any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region. I told him that America will continue to stand with Colombia as it confronts violence and terror and fights drug traffickers,' said President Bush.

The weekend raid killed 23 guerrillas, including a high level spokesperson. Since then, Ecuador has been seeking international condemnation of the attack, while Venezualan President Hugo Chavez, who sympathizes with the leftist rebels, came out in support of Ecuador.

Jorge Valencia of San Carlos is from Colombia. He is a former journalist who up until four years ago covered Colombia's government.

"What we don't want, and I as a Colombian don't want, is for Hugo Chavez to intervene. The Colombian president tries to deliver a job well done, but is interrupted by the politically interested personality of Chavez who tries to be the protagonist," said Valencia.

So far, this conflict is mostly a war of words. Colombia's president says he will not allow his nation to be drawn into open war.

"This is clearly a diplomatic meltdown, where the major escalation in the last day or two has been rhetorical with charges and countercharges flying, but it's unclear what the lasting impact is going to be," said Harley Shaiken, director of UC Berkeley's Center for Latin American Studies.

Colombia has more than 250,000 U.S.-equipped and trained soldiers, about 80,000 more than what Venezuela and Ecuador have combined.