On July 22, Colombia’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) presented evidence of what is clearly a credible report on the presence of camps of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) inside Venezuela. By official U.S. designation FARC is a terrorist organization, one of three operating in Colombia.
The OAS summary tells the story best:
The Colombian Ambassador presented “a series of photographs, maps, coordinates, and videos that, according to his government, represent proof of the presence of illegal armed groups in Venezuelan territory. [Note: The OAS does not consider FARC a terrorist organization.]
He “made a series of requests, including the formation of an International Committee with all willing OAS Member States to visit within the next 30 days the places where Colombia alleges the presence of the members of FARC present in their neighboring country.”
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Venezuela’s Representative “denied the validity of the evidence presented by the Colombian representative, questioned the accusations and disapproved of the use of the OAS as a platform for presenting them.” He then “announced the rupture of bilateral relations between his country and Colombia as a result of the meeting, and reiterated his criticism to the Colombian government for convening the meeting.”
By taking its concerns to the OAS, Colombia acted correctly. Its use of the OAS route stands in contrast to its March 1, 2008 response, which preemptively killed FARC chief-of-staff Raul Reyes with a strike on a camp just inside Ecuador. This time Colombia took its concerns to the OAS to demand collective action and support against the serious threat of terrorism and subversion, aided and abetted by Chávez’s Venezuela. Chávez’s response to a legitimate concern was to break diplomatic relations.
The Obama Administration repeatedly says it wants to strengthen multilateralism and security in the Americas. Yet, when critical issues arise within the OAS and action is needed, the OAS becomes mired in collective inaction, torn between the followers of the Chavista line and the rest of the herd.
Colombia’s call for an International Committee merits a serious response. The Obama Administration must first make a decision: Is the evidence Colombia presented credible? Can our massive intelligence network pronounce on the allegations? If they can, they should say so—publicly. If they cannot, it is a serious indication of deficiencies in our capacity to monitor adverse activities in the region.
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If the Colombia case is solid, which many believe it is, then the Obama Administration must work with other nations to form an international committee to investigate the allegations.