WASHINGTON — Colombia clashed on Tuesday with Ecuador, Venezuela and their allies at the Organization of American States, which agreed to convene an emergency meeting of hemispheric foreign ministers to deal with a spiraling crisis in the Andes.
The OAS may also send a mission to investigate and explore diplomatic solutions to the March 1 raid, when Colombia bombed a guerrilla camp one mile inside Ecuador, killing a top commander of a rebel group known as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
Also Tuesday, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced plans to take Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to the International Criminal Court and accuse him of financing genocide, days after allegedly finding documents that suggest Venezuela paid the FARC $300 million last month.
Meanwhile, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa went to Peru for his first stop in a five-nation tour to drum up regional backing against Colombia's border incursion. And in Washington, President Bush confirmed his unwavering support for Colombia.
"I told Uribe that America will continue to stand with Colombia as it confronts violence and terror and fights drug traffickers,'' Bush said.
Bush used the opportunity to promote a free trade agreement with Colombia, but did not say how the United States might respond to the escalating Andean crisis. Ecuador and Venezuela rushed troops to their borders with Colombia, raising fears of the first armed conflict in South America since Ecuador and Peru fought a border war in 1995.
The international flap began Saturday, when Colombia fired on a FARC camp in Ecuador, where the organization's No. 2, Raul Reyes, had sought refuge. The FARC announced Tuesday that former peace negotiator Joaquin Gomez, head of the rebel group's southern front, would replace Reyes in the organization's secretariat.
Although Colombia claims the bombs were fired in self defense from Colombia's side of the border, Uribe admitted that helicopters with troops flew into Ecuador to recover Reyes' body. About 20 other bodies were left behind and recovered Tuesday by the Ecuadorean military.
Correa blasted Colombia's version of events, saying helicopters made the attack by flying in from the south.
"This man is a liar,'' Correa told CNN en Espanol, referring to Uribe. "It was all lies.''
He stressed that Ecuador dismantled 47 FARC camps last year, and called for a special OAS investigation.
Details of the proposed OAS mission and the dates for the foreign ministers meeting would be worked out later, diplomats said, with many countries suggesting March 25.
Diplomats from Ecuador, Venezuela and Colombia agreed that Colombian troops had entered Ecuador but agreed on little else, including on how many FARC members died. Colombia said 17 FARC guerrillas were killed and Ecuador said it was 22.
Colombia argued Ecuador and Venezuela ought to be condemned for harboring terrorist groups and presented evidence from computers seized on the raid as proof.
Colombian envoy to the OAS Camilo Ospina said additional documents, beyond those already made public, linked Venezuela's Chavez with arms and money supplied to the FARC.
This drew an angry response from Venezuelan ambassador Jorge Valero, who called the statements "false, absolutely false.'' He accused Colombian government of warmongering and "genocide acts.''
The meeting revealed the political fault lines in Latin America.
The U.S. government defended Colombia, with acting U.S Ambassador Robert Manzanarez noting that the FARC had committed numerous violations of international laws. "The FARC is clearly a terrorist threat to the entire region,'' he said. Chile, Canada, Mexico and Brazil were more cautious, making only broad references to the need to respect sovereignty and seek a peaceful resolution to a conflict that has seen troops massing on borders and Ecuador and Venezuela breaking diplomatic ties with Colombia.
Venezuelan allies Nicaragua, Bolivia and Argentina also condemned Colombia's action. But Ecuador demanded a condemnation of Colombia, an OAS mission to verify the violation and a meeting of foreign ministers no later than March 11. Speaking before a packed hall at the OAS headquarters, Colombia's Ospina said letting terrorists use camps in bordering nations to plot and execute attacks "is a criminal act'' and a violation of multiple international treaties and U.N. Security Council resolutions. Ospina said Reyes was wanted by Interpol and had 14 sentences and 121 criminal investigations against him for crimes against humanity like massacres and kidnappings. He said Colombian aircraft bombed the camp, located about a mile inside Ecuador, from 3-5 miles away, within Colombian airspace. Had the planes entered Ecuadorean airspace they should have been spotted by Ecuadorean radar, he said. Colombian helicopters then entered into Ecuadorean territory and troops found the bodies of Reyes and 16 other rebels. He said his country had already expressed regrets for that action and repeated the apology. An Ecuadorean claim that Colombian fired at sleeping citizens was a "lack of respect to the people of Colombia'' given that the FARC caused thousands of Colombian deaths, Ospina said. He also denied Ecuadorean claims that it had told Bogota that Security Minister Gustavo Larrea was meeting with the guerrillas. The meeting was mentioned in one of the captured computers. Ospina added that since January of 2006, Colombia on 10 occasions had asked Ecuador to act against the FARC camps. "Members of the (OAS) and citizens of the hemisphere,'' he said, "let there be no doubt that the governments of Ecuador and Venezuela were negotiating with narco-terrorists, the proofs are in your hands.'' Ecuador's representative to the OAS, Maria Isabel Salvador, said Colombia's military action was a "premeditated and preplanned'' attack and that Colombian President Uribe has not told the truth about what occurred over the weekend. She called the documents Colombia has released "alleged proofs'' and said the computers they were recovered from were "strangely intact'' after a bombing raid in which 22 persons died. Valero of Venezuela denied Chavez had broken any international laws and said Venezuela was simply seeking a peaceful solution to Colombia's civil conflict. "The military option has failed,'' he said.
Ecuador's Correa is expected to meet with Chavez Wednesday and will also meet this week with the presidents of Brazil and Panama. His trip ends Friday at a summit meeting in Santo Domingo, which Chavez and Uribe are expected to attend.
After meeting with Ecuador's leader for three hours, Peru's President Alan Garcia called for Uribe to apologize — and for Chavez to butt out.
In France, diplomats lamented the killing of the FARC leader, who was the rebel group's contact for international negotiations to free hostage Ingrid Betancourt.