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War Without Borders: The Colombia-Ecuador Crisis of 2008

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On March 1, 2008, the Colombian air force attacked the clandestine camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia FARC in a remote region of northeastern Ecuador, killing its leader, Ra l Reyes, and 24 other people. The FARC had been using Ecuadorean territory for years to rest and resupply. The attack was successful, but it detonated the worst crisis in Inter-American diplomacy of the last decade. For Colombia, the attack demonstrated the new professionalism of its armed forces and police and the continuing success of the strategy of democratic security enunciated by President Alvaro Uribe. Moreover, it signaled the remarkable advances being made by Bogot in pursuing the FARC, in reducing the high level of insecurity that has dominated the country for a generation, and the increasing reach and presence of the government to areas outside of its control. The attack was immensely popular within Colombia, which now began to see the light at the end of tunnel in defeating the FARC. Moreover, the death of Reyes was one of a series of losses of high level commanders. Within Ecuador, the story was markedly different. Within hours after the attack, the government of President Rafael Correa fulminated against Uribe, thus beginning a ferocious diplomatic assault that would last for months, lead to the recall of ambassadors, and bring in the Organization of American States. For a number of reasons, Ecuador felt victimized. First, it was undergoing a particularly difficult political process of trying to bolster a failing state riven by political polarization and the threat of violence. Second, a high level of corruption had weakened the institutions of the state. Third, Ecuador did not have the capacity to secure its border with Colombia. Though its military was extensively deployed on the border, it lacked the logistics to deal with the threat. Fourth, in 2000 Ecuador had assumed an unrealistic stance of neutrality with respect to Colombias internal conflict.

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  • Information Science
  • Government and Political Science

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