Tension Builds Between Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has deployed 3,200 troops to the southern border with Colombia, following a diplomatic fracas in which Colombian military forces targeted and killed a rebel leader just inside Ecuador's border.

The Marxist rebel group, FARC, which many see as the biggest threat to regional stability, is said to be responsible for the kidnapping of U.S. contractors and Colombian politicians, including Colombia's former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez responded swiftly to the killing. "You had better not get the idea of doing this in our territory because it would be cause for a war," Chavez said Sunday during his weekly televised broadcast to the nation.

Since then, all eyes have been fixed on the Colombian-Venezuelan border for signs of military action between the two countries. Pro-Chavez state television channels have shown no pictures of increased border activity, and Bogota has announced that it would not send troops to the border in an attempt to calm the situation.

That's a very different tactic than the one it used on Saturday when forces entered Ecuadorian territory to carry out air and ground attacks on FARC rebel forces, killing its number two in command, Raul Reyes.

Correa was initially unruffled by reports of the assault, but changed his rhetoric after learning the attack had been premeditated, and he launched into a tirade against the Colombian government.

"I would like to inform the Ecuadorian people that I am preparing to withdraw Ecuador's ambassador from Bogota, who is already in the country," Correa said in an address to the nation. "Additionally, I have ordered the mobilization of troops to the northern border, and I have called an urgent meeting for tomorrow of the national security council."

Colombia's Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo apologized for the actions that took place but stood by his government's decision to cross the border, saying it was retaliating against enemy fire.

Chavez did not waste an opportunity to attack his Columbian counterpart, President Alvaro Uribe — with whom he has broken diplomatic ties over his dealings with FARC rebels.

During his weekly televised address, the Venezuelan leader jumped on the bandwagon and declared he was sending in 10 battalions to the border.

Chavez accused Colombia of being a "terrorist state that is subject to the great terrorist, the government of the United States and their apparatus," and declared that "the Colombian government has turned into the Israel of Latin America."

Meanwhile, Colombia's police chief claimed on Monday afternoon that he uncovered evidence from Reyes' computer, indicating that Chavez had made payments of $300 million to FARC guerillas.

Critics of Chavez argue that this is nothing more than a smokescreen to cover up the country's deteriorating economy and increasing violations on human rights.

Chavez has been more isolated since he lost a referendum in December 2007 to increase his presidential powers, and it appears that many of his countrymen have lost patience with his efforts to convert the nation to his version of Bolivarian socialism.

Chavez's defiant words resonated throughout Latin America on Monday. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil was in discussion with Argentina's President, Crisitna Fernandez. A strongly worded statement from the Brazilian foreign minister, Celso Amorim, condemned the raid in Ecuador and said that an explicit apology should be offered to Ecuador.

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