- Title: VARIOUS: Latin American leaders appeal for calm in Andean crisis
- Date: 5th March 2008
- Summary: MOUNTAINS, COLOMBIA (FILE) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF SLAIN FARC COMMANDER RAUL REYES IN JUNGLE WITH REBELS
- Embargoed: 20th March 2008 10:43
- Topics: International Relations
- Reuters ID: LVA4B27TIW9D2IJHN9TB5N4X28OH
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Latin American leaders in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile appealed for a peaceful resolution on Tuesday (March 04) to a diplomatic crisis following Colombia's killing of a rebel inside Ecuador, an incident that prompted troop deployments and warnings of war from Venezuela and Ecuador.
The weekend attack by Colombian forces left Raul Reyes dead, the second in command for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In Buenos Aires, Argentine president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner called for the release of hostages held by the FARC. Fernandez, who is close to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, said nobody should interfere with the work of elected presidents.
"I want to call on all Argentines and all of Latin America to work for peace and the liberation of Ingrid Betancourt and all the hostages in Colombia. Argentines support the cause and we want peace. We are going to keep working everyday because we know we must take advantage of this moment in the region when for the first time developing economies are in a process of growth. Nothing and no one should be allowed to upset that process of growth or the democratically elected populist leaders," she said.
The Chavez-led new left has been quick to pin the blame for the Andean conflict on the United States, who has given Colombia billions of dollars to help them in the war on drugs.
In Bolivia, leftist leader Evo Morales, also an ally Ecuador's Rafael Correa and Chavez, said he will make an unexpected trip to the Rio Group summit in the Dominican Republic this week.
"We are obligated to travel to this Rio Group summit. We'll take advantage of it to look for peaceful and humane solutions. We also hope to reach an understanding with the presidents to stop any kind of confrontation in South America. I wanted to announce this trip which was not planned but is obligatory in light of our brothers' problems," Morales said.
Chile's Foreign Minister Alejandro Foxley urged Chavez to stay out of the conflict.
"This is a problem for two countries in which it would not be convenient to involve a third country in the conflict. It is convenient that other countries involve themselves - not in the conflict but in solving the problem. Because if other countries get involved in the conflict, and not in the solution, what we are going to have is further problems not only between two countries, but this problem is going to convert itself from a two country crisis into a regional crisis," Foxley said at a news conference in Santiago.
And former Cuban President Fidel Castro waded into the fray, backing Ecuador but aiming his fire mainly at arch-enemy the United States.
"Imperialism has just committed a monstrous crime in Ecuador," Castro wrote in his latest column for Cuban state-run media, this one on his relations with Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa.
"Deadly bombs were dropped in the early morning against a group of men and women whom, with few exceptions, were sleeping ... they were Yankee bombs, guided by Yankee satellites."
The crisis erupted when Colombia flew troops into Ecuador on Saturday to kill Reyes and 21 of his fighters.
It was a major blow to Latin America's oldest rebel group and also eliminated a key contact for governments, such as France, Venezuela and Ecuador, in talks to free hostages held by FARC for years in jungle camps.
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