Latin American nations end crisis with handshake
By Patrick Markey 1 hour, 37 minutes ago
SANTO DOMINGO (Reuters) - The presidents of Colombia,
Ecuador and Venezuela ended a border dispute on Friday
with a summit handshake after a week of regional
diplomacy in the face of troop buildups.
"And with this ... this incident that has caused so
much damage (is) resolved," leftist Ecuadorean
President Rafael Correa said before standing up and
shaking hands with his U.S.-backed conservative
Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe.
The dispute erupted on Saturday when Colombia raided
inside Ecuador to kill a commander of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and
its resolution brought the summit to a surprise ending
after acrimonious moments, including Correa calling
Uribe a liar.
The accord came after Uribe apologized to Correa at
the summit under pressure from governments across the
region. Uribe also said he could guarantee Colombia
would not make similar raids if they cooperated in the
fight against the FARC.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who had blamed the
United States for the crisis as he sent tanks to the
border with Colombia, joined in by shaking Uribe's
hand vigorously, applauding loudly and smiling
"We are all happy -- we must unite and integrate,"
The handshakes were broadcast live on television
across Latin America in response to a special request
from the summit host, Dominican Republic President
The resolution was a diplomatic victory for Latin
America, whose governments from Mexico to Brazil
managed the crisis by emphasizing negotiations and
took advantage of the previously scheduled summit to
force the sides to talk.
Fernandez engineered the end with a public appeal.
"What all of us would like is for this meeting to end
with a hug, a handshake, between the presidents of
Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador, together with their
Latin American counterparts," he said to thunderous
The end also will resurrect hopes for the release of
FARC hostages, including a French-Colombian woman and
three Americans. Chavez had negotiated the freeing of
six captives in the weeks before the crisis.
LEADERS OVERCOME CLASH
Earlier Uribe and Correa had clashed at the meeting
with Correa calling the Colombian a liar after he
accused him of links to the FARC, Latin America's
The crisis had spread across the region with leftist
allies Venezuela and Nicaragua joining Ecuador in
cutting relations with Colombia, while Venezuela and
Ecuador sent troops to their borders against the
strongest U.S. ally in the region.
With the dispute resolved, Nicaragua restored ties
"Nicaragua reverses the rupture of relations with
Colombia," Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said.
"I'll send you the bill for the ambassador's air
fare," Uribe quipped as he anticipated sending his
envoy back to Managua.
Major powers including the United States, France and
Russia had also called on the leaders to reach a
Friday's outcome confirmed predictions from the
Pentagon to Wall Street that the dispute would not
escalate into the first military conflict in the
region since Peru and Ecuador fought briefly over
their border more than a decade ago.
(Additional reporting by Manuel Jimenez and Enrique
Andres Pretel in Santo Domingo and Brian Ellsworth in
Caracas; Writing by Saul Hudson; Editing by John
O'Callaghan and Bill Trott)