December 26, 2006 [LINK / comment]

Ecuadorans mad at Colombia

The government of Ecuador has complained to Colombia about the latter country's resumption of herbicide spraying on its side of the border. Such spraying was suspended last January, but the coca cultivation has resumed in the border zone, and Colombia felt it had no choice but to start spraying again. Tensions began rising in recent weeks, but Foreign Minister Francisco Carrion delcared that Ecuador will not sever diplomatic relations with Colombia, "at least not the government of President [Alfredo] Palacio." His term ends January 15, and the big question is whether Colombia's President Alvaro Uribe will attend the inauguration ceremonies of Rafael Correa, a populist who will be under stiff pressure to prove himself by asserting his country's interests. He blamed the dispute on Colombia's lack of willingness to cooperate on border issues. See So far, Correa seems to be a more reasonable leader than Bolivia's Evo Morales, who shows little or no interest in controlling coca production or fighting drug trafficking. If he plays the defiant populist role too strongly in his first days on the job, however, he may back himself into a corner that will make it difficult to build constructive relations with neighboring countries, and with the United States.