19 April 2008

Unlike Uribe, My Hands Are Not Stained With Blood: Ecuador President

The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, gave this interview to the Spanish website, Público, before his European tour to explain his country’s position on the current crisis with the neighbour from Hell, Colombia.
Q: The British writer Richard Gott thinks that Colombia is the principal destabilising element in the region. Do you share his opinion?

RC: Not just now but for a long time. Colombia is the only country that has paramilitaries, guerrillas, drug traffickers, extensive coca cultivation and large areas of the country that the State does not control. Paramilitarism and narco-politics don’t exist in Ecuador. Neither do we cultivate coca. These are exclusively Colombian. I say this with regret of a fraternal people, but Colombia today is the greatest centre of instability in Latin America and it hurts us all… The problem is on the other side of the frontier… we are victims of the Colombian conflict. We are neither its authors nor accomplices.

Q: Do you feel that a media war has been unleashed?

RC: Not just a feeling, it is real. We know whom we confront: a militarist country, a President with an imperfect past, with enormous support from intelligence agencies from beyond the region and with an impressive propaganda machinery. We have faith that truth and justice will triumph. Already we have achieved that in Latin America where Colombia has been roundly defeated in politics, diplomacy and information.

Q: What does Colombia pursue in accusing the neighbouring countries of collaborating with FARC?

RC: The militarist politics of Uribe started since he took over the presidency. First, overturning the strategy of his predecessor, Andres Pastrana, who embraced Manuel Marulanda (FARC chief). Uribe came with his hard line and wanted everyone to do the same. He is like a little emperor who follows the dictates of his boss. It is obvious that his political and economic powers are based on the fight against FARC. Peace does not suit Uribe because fighting the guerrillas gives a sense of security to the Colombian electorate. Worryingly, that conflict is spilling over.

Q: But before the March 1 bombing there was respect in the relations between the two countries.

RC: Uribe has always shown lack of respect for Ecuador to the point of fumigating our territory and his planes frequently violate our air space. In any case, there is a question without answer about the bombing of March 1. They had tabs on the Raul Reyes group while it was on Colombian soil. Why did they wait till they passed over to Ecuador before killing them?

Q: Why?

RC: Perhaps to involve Ecuador in a conflict that is not it’s. Perhaps to intimidate, perhaps to force us to participate in Plan Colombia. What Uribe did not bank on was our answer, the condemnation from the states of the Organisation of American States. His plan failed because we did not fall into his trap.

Q: During the Group of Rio summit in Santo Domingo (in Dominican Republic) you showed your hands to Uribe and told him to look at it well because they were clean, without blood. What did you refer to?

RC: Uribe has tried to link us, not only my government but also the armed forces, of support to FARC. Later he made out that my presidential campaign had been financed by the guerrillas. It is despicable. It is wretched that this man, after having violated all international rights, accused us of supporting a guerrilla group, the actions of which we have rejected thousands of times. I spoke of the hands for that. Precisely to make out the difference with Uribe’s position who has had so many scandals for his links with narco-trafficking. There are books that explain it. There are videos in which he appears to meet with paramilitaries. His militarist politics is not going to end with conflict; he is going to exacerbate it and leave behind as outcome thousands of deaths. My hands are clean and without blood. I cannot say that of President Uribe.

Q: He keeps making the charge that you knew of FARC’s activities in your territory. He claims that on 16 occasion he warned you of the presence of guerrilla bases in your territory and that you took no notice. Is it true?

RC: It’s an incredible smear. All my orders are registered. It is so crude and ridiculous that we have decided not to answer these. We don’t know very well why he does so. When relations improve with him, something strange happens and he tries to do you in the back. There is something not quite right in his head… He has a terrible psychotic behaviour.

Q: Is it true that Reyes had contacts with the French to negotiate the release of Ingrid Betancourt when the bombing happened?

RC: Uribe does not like peace and not even the liberation of the hostages for Betancourt is a potential presidential candidate. It is true that we knew that there was to be contact in a neutral third country to free them (the hostages) in Ecuadorian soil. President Chavez also asked me if we could receive the hostages in our territory because handing them over on the Colombia-Venezuela frontier had become very dangerous. We were in that process. Reyes headed the process to liberate the hostages and that is precisely why they went for Reyes.

Q: The crisis has revealed huge cracks in the Ecuadorian military intelligence that caused changes in the military top brass. What reforms will be undertaken?

RC: There is something seriously wrong with our intelligence services. We still don’t have concrete facts but we can certainly say that we suffer from infiltration by the CIA and the agency works for Colombia.

Q: There are those who criticise you for your naivety for having waited so long to change the military leadership, loyal to the previous regime.

RC: They are probably right. And also for having believed in Bogota. If you want to say so, we underestimated the threat of an external attack since by now things have been resolved with Peru and we had good relations with Colombia. But we underestimated that over there was Uribe.

Abridged. Source: Público

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