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Drums of War II

Trouble to the south... another copy / paste; but hey, i'm trying and it's a start!


Chávez sends troops, tanks to Venezuela's border with Colombia
Strike against rebel commander 'cowardly,' he says
By Juan Forero
Washington Post / March 3, 2008

Calling a Colombian military strike against a guerrilla commander "a cowardly assassination," President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela yesterday closed his country's embassy in Colombia and ordered tanks, planes, and thousands of troops to the 1,300-mile border the two countries share.

President Rafael Correa of Ecuador also recalled his ambassador to Colombia in protest over the assault just inside Ecuador on Saturday that killed 17 guerrillas, including Luis Edgar Devia, a top commander in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Ecuador and Venezuela are allies.

Speaking on his nationally televised show, Chávez lauded Devia and ordered his defense minister to mobilize troops to Venezuela's western border. He also blamed the United States, a staunch ally of President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia, for fueling the conflict in Colombia.

"Move 10 battalions to the Colombian frontier immediately, tank battalions, military aviation," Chávez said. "We are not going to permit the North American empire, which is the ruler, to allow his lapdog, President Uribe and the Colombian oligarchy, to divide or weaken us. We will not permit it."

Another Venezuelan ally, Nicaragua, which is disputing Colombian sovereignty over two islands in the Caribbean, also criticized Colombia. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, a Cold War foe of the United States, called the strike against Devia "an act of total provocation" that reduces the chances of peacefully settling Colombia's conflict.

Although celebrated in Colombia as a major blow against the FARC, the attack has triggered the most serious regional crisis in recent years. Venezuela, Ecuador, and Nicaragua frequently criticize Colombia's military activities in the region and are detached from the United States, which provides billions of dollars in military aid to Colombia.

Billions of dollars? With the United States deep in debt and deficit, its citizens (and so-called elected representatives?) might question the wisdom of such "aid"

"This is a political, not a military reaction," said Adrian Bonilla, a professor of international relations at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, a university in Quito, Ecuador. "What is clear is that military, police, intelligence, and security cooperation between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela are completely fractured at this moment."

The Colombian government said Saturday that Devia was killed in heavy combat between rebels on the Ecuadoran side of the frontier and Colombian troops on the other side.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said fighters were then called in to bomb the rebels and that after they were killed, Colombian troops crossed the frontier to recover the bodies of Devia and another rebel commander, Guillermo Torres, better known as the writer of revolutionary ballads.

The Colombian government said Uribe called Correa to brief him about the attack.

Yesterday, Correa called the incursion into Ecuador "the worst aggression Ecuador has suffered on the part of Colombia." In a news conference in Quito, he said that although Uribe had told him the attack took place in battle, an Ecuadoran army patrol that examined the camp had determined otherwise.

"They were bombed and massacred while they slept, using pinpoint technology that found them at night, in the jungle, for sure with the collaboration of foreign powers," he said.

Myles Frechette, a former ambassador to Colombia who works as a consultant in Washington, said the Colombians probably weighed the strike on Devia against the potential fallout from going into Ecuador. But he said repairing the diplomatic damage would be a challenge.

"Uribe has got to go down there, meet with Correa, calm him down, and he's going to have Chávez fuming at the border," Frechette said. Uribe is "in a pickle, in the sense that diplomatically he's got to get himself out of this corner that he's got himself in."

How does Frechette know Uribe got himself into the pickle; isn't he contradicting Correa's statement re: collaboration with foreign powers? Maybe the newspaper doesn't provide enough space to delve into such topics...
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Drums of War I

If I were Winter Patriot, I might have something witty to add about this situation. And probably multiple sources and good new insight... Since I'm not Winter Patriot, sadly i know, I will just go with some straight up copy paste;
Here's where I found this; Bloomberg.com

March 3 (Bloomberg) -- Israel began winding down its offensive in the Gaza Strip that has left more than 100 Palestinians dead since last week, after the United Nations demanded an end to the violence.

Israeli forces were withdrawing from the seaside enclave ruled by the Islamic Hamas movement, an army spokesman said on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Israel began the ground, air and sea operation Feb. 29 after Hamas stepped up cross-border rocket attacks on southern towns, firing Soviet-made Grad missiles that brought Ashkelon, a city of 110,000 people that is 17 kilometers (11 miles) north of Gaza, within range. Militants previously limited most attacks to unguided, shorter range Qassam rockets made in Gaza.

The UN Security Council yesterday said the fighting "must not be allowed to deter the political process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.'' U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is scheduled to meet tomorrow with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in an effort to push forward the peace talks.

Abbas yesterday said he was suspending negotiations due to the violence, chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said.

Death Toll

Fifteen Palestinians were killed yesterday, taking the death toll since Feb. 27 to 110, said Mo'aweya Hassanein, chief of emergency services at the Palestinian Health Ministry.

Three Israelis, including two soldiers and a civilian, have been killed.

Israeli warplanes struck three weapons manufacturers, a Hamas command center and an armed gang overnight, an army spokesman said. Three rockets were fired at Israel since midnight, he added.

The use of Grad missiles against Israel has increased calls for the army to invade Gaza, where Hamas has ruled since it ousted forces loyal to Abbas in June, ending a partnership government with his Fatah party.

Oxfam International called on the "international community to take immediate action to stop the escalation of violence'' and press for a truce to ensure civilians are protected.

"Sustaining and increasing human suffering is unlikely to lead to peace,'' Oxfam's Adam Leach said in an e-mailed statement today.

Olmert, who defines the conflict with Hamas in Gaza as a "war,'' yesterday ordered his ministers to stop making public comments about the fighting.

Palestinians gather next to the rubble of a mosque that was part of a compound used by the security forces of Hamas the day after it was hit in an Israeli missile strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, March 2, 2008. Source: AP Photo/Hatem Omar via Bloomberg News

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