Dear readers,

This Updater takes a close look at the recent crisis in the Andean region and its fall-out. When Colombian security forces attacked a FARC guerrilla camp inside Ecuadorian territory, they violated international law and forced a diplomatic showdown, while attaining the objective of taking out the FARC’s second in command. Since then regional diplomacy has averted the crisis, but questions remain about sovereignty, the danger of spreading violence from the Colombian conflict, and U.S. foreign policy in the region. The Bush administration is using the incident to promote passage of the U.S.-Colombian Free Trade Agreement in Congress. This week’s writers—Laura Carlsen, Raúl Zibechi, John Lindsay-Poland and Adam Isacson—analyze the U.S. role in the conflict and question the logic of selling the free trade agreement based on controversial U.S. national security arguments.


New from the Americas Policy Program

The Andean Crisis and the Geopolitics of Trade
By Laura Carlsen

Even for a continent famed for volatile political relations, the events of the Andean crisis passed
by with dizzying speed and dangerous passions. Accusations tossed back and forth went way beyond the
exchange of insults common in the past, and revealed deep fissures and mistrust among nations in the

The immediate crisis has been averted. But the geopolitical divisions in the region threaten
to lead to more conflicts in the near future.

Government leaders in the hemisphere and the people of the nations involved in the Andean
crisis insist that the only solution is a peaceful one. Whether or not the United States supports that
conviction depends a great deal on the vigilance and advocacy of U.S. citizens.

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(a) is director of the Americas Policy Program ( in Mexico City, where she has been a writer and political analyst for more than two decades. The Americas Policy Program Mexico Blog is found at

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Military Crisis in South America: The Results of Plan Colombia
By Raúl Zibechi

The military operative executed by Colombian soldiers on Ecuadorian soil to kill the FARC
commander Raul Reyes is part of the strategy of the United States to alter the military balance in the
region. In the crosshairs is Venezuelan and Ecuadorian oil; however it also serves as a check on Brazil
as an emerging regional power.

Raúl Zibechi is an international analyst for Brecha, a weekly journal in Montevideo, Uruguay, professor and researcher on social movements at the Multiversidad Franciscana de América Latina, and adviser to social groups. He is a monthly contributor to the Americas Policy Program (

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The Specious "National Security" Argument
By Adam Isacson

In the past week the Bush administration has unearthed a "national security" justification
for passage of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement that can’t be allowed to stand.

In general, the fostering of a new "mini-Cold War" in the region—a new "war" to
replace the old Cold War, the unsuccessful "drug war," and the not-too-relevant-to-the-region "war
on terror"—would be a huge step backward for U.S. relations with, and democratic stability
in, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The "national security" pitch is not a serious argument, and it can lead us to
some places we should not be going. It should be dropped now.

Adam Isacson (isacson(a) is Director of Programs at the Center for International Policy (,
where he has worked directly on Colombia issues for the past decade.

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Yankees Head Home
By John Lindsay-Poland

Absent in the discussion of the conflict brewing in the Andes over a Colombian military incursion
into Ecuador to kill a guerrilla leader is the role of U.S. military in the conflict. It goes well beyond
providing satellite intelligence on the location of guerrilla camps: the two countries have opposing
responses to Washington’s attempt to militarize the hemisphere. Ecuador’s constituent assembly proposes
prohibiting all foreign military presence, while Colombia seeks ever greater U.S. military hardware,
intelligence, and troops. The U.S. response has been quite undiplomatic.

John Lindsay-Poland, a Foreign Policy In Focus contributor, is co-director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean in Oakland, California, and author of Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the U.S. in Panama (Duke University Press, 2003).

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