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  Colombia's instability entangles its neighbours

Bogotá/Brussels, 8 April 2003: Colombia's conflict is producing significant negative repercussions for its five neighbours – Ecuador, Panama, Brazil, Peru and Venezuela. But Colombian proposals for greater regional cooperation against terrorism and drug trafficking have been met with reluctance by bordering states. A new report from the International Crisis Group, Colombia and its Neighbours: the Tentacles of Instability, urges much greater cooperation.

ICG Senior Vice President and Latin America Program Director, Mark Schneider, said: "The spillover of the Colombian conflict will only worsen unless Colombia's neighbours recognise that they have a fundamental stake in helping Colombia bring its conflict to an end. They should rethink their reluctance to play a stronger role in border security and development".

The reasons for the lack of cooperation are complex. Relations between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments have been strained for some time by Venezuela's tacit tolerance of insurgents who move relatively freely on either side of the border, and the significant flow of drugs through the country. Ecuador and Panama feel vulnerable, blaming Colombia for not doing enough to contain the conflict. Brazil's government is confident it can deal with any spillover, largely due to forbidding geography, but the serious drugs problem and violence in its big cities appear directly linked to Colombia's conflict. Peru has seen a recent rise in coca cultivation and believes that this is related directly to eradication and counterdrug pressure on Colombian coca farmers.

ICG argues that nothing has altered Colombia's basic responsibility to manage the conflict. ICG Colombia Project Director Fernando Mora said: "Colombia needs to move to a negotiated solution to the war. It must also recognize that improving regional cooperation requires more than making its military presence more effective".

Colombia and its neighbours also should give priority to more effective intelligence sharing and judicial cooperation, confidence building between the military and police and more concerted action against drugs. Members of the Andean Community, Brazil and Panama should agree to treat the FARC, ELN and AUC as terrorist organisations until such time as they enter into humanitarian and ceasefire accords and halt their criminal actions.

International organisations such as the Organisation of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and bilateral donors should join the Andean Community, Brazil and Panama in comprehensive planning for security, rural development, refugee programs, and environmental protection.

Katy Cronin (London) +44-(0)20 7981 0330
email: [email protected]

Francesca Lawe-Davies (Brussels) +32-(0)2-536 00 65
Kathy Ward (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
Read the full ICG report on our website: www.crisisweb.org


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