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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ecuador Concerned Over Spying Ahead of Talks with Colombia

QUITO – Ecuadorian Vice President Lenin Moreno said that espionage allegations against Colombia – if proven – could adversely affect next week’s talks aimed at improving bilateral ties.

“If (the allegations by Ecuador’s close ally, Venezuela,) prove to be true, in a certain sense” that would affect Tuesday’s meeting between the foreign ministers in the northern Ecuadorian town of Cotacachi, Moreno said Friday.

Ecuador’s leftist government broke off diplomatic ties with its neighbor on March 3, 2008, two days after a Colombian military strike in its territory killed more than a score of people, including a high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group.

The two countries began efforts last month to improve ties, although the process has been complicated by Ecuadorian courts’ efforts to prosecute Colombia’s former defense minister and a police general for the military incursion.

On Friday, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa described Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez’s allegations of Colombian spying operations in his country, Ecuador and Cuba as “extremely serious,” warning that if they prove to be true they could further harm relations with Colombia.

Moreno, for his part, said Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry and Internal and External Security Ministry must investigate whether there is any truth to the allegations. “If so, they will have to register the necessary (diplomatic) complaints” with the neighboring country.

Ecuadorian Security Minister Miguel Carvajal told Ecuavisa television that Quito’s probe into the alleged spying indicates Colombia may have conducted “human intelligence activities at the (Ecuadorian) embassy (in Bogota)” and at its “consulates in Colombia, as well as ... in Ecuadorian territory in 2008 and 2009.”

On Thursday, the Venezuelan government presented in Caracas what officials called “irrefutable evidence” that neighboring Colombia has dispatched spies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as part of an ambitious, CIA-financed operation.

Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami detailed the contents of documents allegedly originating with Colombia’s DAS security service and unearthed since the apprehension of two suspected Colombian on Venezuelan soil.

He said Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was fully aware of the espionage carried out by the DAS, which reports directly to the office of the head of state and has been repeatedly caught spying on journalists, judges and opposition politicians in its own country.

Uribe’s conservative government has already announced that the DAS will be dismantled.

El Aissami said the purported DAS documents refer to three operations: “Salomon,” targeting Ecuador; “Phoenix,” aimed at Cuba, and “Falcon,” directed at Venezuela.

He said the information was compiled in the course of a DAS internal investigation about a leak of classified information.

The minister did not say how he obtained the DAS report.

Caracas obtained the documents pursuant to the capture of two DAS agents in Venezuela, El Aissami told the National Assembly.

In announcing the arrests of the suspected DAS agents earlier this week, Chavez recalled that he had previously alerted Uribe “about the conspiratorial activities” of Colombian operatives in Venezuela.

Those activities will continue, the Venezuelan leader said, after this week’s signing of an accord with Washington giving the U.S. Armed Forces access to seven Colombian military bases.

Chavez, survivor of a 2002 coup attempt that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says took place with Washington’s advance knowledge if not active collusion, says the basing agreement poses a threat to his “Bolivarian Revolution.”

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