- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 4, 2008


The death of a Colombian terrorist like Raul Reyes should be a moment of relief for the Western Hemisphere. The State Department had placed a $5 million bounty on the head of this second-ranking member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the Western Hemisphere’s worst narco-terrorist organization. Instead, Reyes’ killing has tipped off an international crisis. Venezuela’s sabre-rattling President Hugo Chavez has sent tanks and an estimated 6,000 troops to the Colombian border, threatening war on the pretext that Colombia’s March 1 raid to kill Reyes violated the sovereignty of neighboring Chavez ally Ecuador. That is rich.

Violate Ecuadorean sovereignty Colombia surely did: Bogota’s airplanes soared into Ecuadorean airspace as helicopters parachuted troops across the porous border to kill Reyes and 16 other FARC terrorists enjoying safe harbor in Ecuador. But this follows years of Mr. Chavez and his Ecuadorean allies helping the FARC as it terrorizes Colombia with cross-border raids and kidnappings. We won’t likely hear much about Venezuela’s and Ecuador’s long record of what amounts to proxy warfare against Colombia. Mr. Chavez is busily attempting to portray the strike as unprovoked, when, in reality, both Ecuador and Venezuela have long records of covert and in some cases not-so-covert hostility via their friends the FARC. They, not Bogota, made this weekend’s airstrike inevitable.

The FARC, an internationally designated terrorist organization and narco-trafficking syndicate, has terrorized Colombia for more than four decades. Its cafe bombings, abductions, airplane hijackings and pitched assaults on Colombian cities have been responsible for tens of thousands of deaths. Over the decades, the FARC has transformed itself from a classic Latin American Communist insurgency into a major conduit of international terrorism and contraband with ties to the Irish Republican Army, Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations. Lately, under the skillful hand of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, much progress has been made against the FARC. Government assaults have shrunk the group’s southern jungle statelet with the help of more than $5 billion in U.S. military aid since 2000. Mr. Chavez detests this progress.

If anything, Bogota had shown too much forebearance of its neighbors’ FARC support. That both Ecuador and Venezuela harbor the FARC as it assaults Colombian targets is not seriously disputed. Even so, last year Colombia allowed Mr. Chavez to attempt to mediate between the government and the terrorists (he failed). Lately, Mr. Chavez has taken to the airwaves in a fruitless bid to legitimize the FARC with the argument that it is an “insurgent” group, not a terrorist organization. Tell that to the families of the 119 civilians killed in the FARC’s 2002 mortaring of a church, the three American missionaries murdered by FARC thugs in 1999, or the victims of the FARC’s indiscriminate gas-cylinder warfare.

Beleaguered Bogota’s “crime” is simply to stop tolerating safe harbor and terror-abettment. Mr. Chavez and his ally President Rafael Correa of Ecuador just watched the elimination of one of their primary means of harming Colombia. No wonder the strongman of Caracas is upset.

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