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| 10/22/2009 12:00:00 AM

A stumbling block

The honey moon between Quito and Bogotá has been suddenly interrupted as an Ecuadorian prosecutor ordered the extradition of the Colombian army general Freddy Padilla. Will Ecuador stop such action?

The diplomatic future of Colombia and Ecuador lies in the hands of Carlos Jiménez. He is the prosecutor who ordered the detention of former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and army general Freddy Padilla. He is also the man behind the problematic investigation of the Angostura bombing that caused the death of chief guerrilla ‘Raúl Reyes’, an Ecuadorian citizen, Franklin Aisalla, and 24 other people. But he is actually a replacement: Wilmer Gonzabay, the prosecutor originally in charge of the investigation, was found dead in his house due to a very suspicious cardiac arrest.

When Jiménez assumed the investigation it had already taken a turn. On one hand, three of the bombing survivors had been called to the stand, among them was the Mexican Lucía Moretti, and Jiménez ordered their extradition. After that, he continued to investigate the links between the FARC and Ecuadorian government employees Ignacio Chauvín and Gustavo Larrea. Finally, he issued an arrest and extradition order for the Colombians who ordered the bombing.

The decision to capture Padilla felt as a hard blow in Bogotá. The news came as the commander in chief of the Colombian Army was about to fly to Ibarra, an Ecuadorian village, to deliver general FabiánVarela the information of the camps of the FARC in Ecuador. Only a few days before, the Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva had decided to send more troops to the frontier with Ecuador as a sign of good will, because the president Rafael Correa had said that Colombia has never guarded those areas. Finally, the announcement came when at last the diplomatic trust had been recovered.

But, since the meeting in New York in which the relations between the two countries had been reestablished, it was clear that there was no agreement in the subject. Colombia only recognizes it’s own jurisdiction, rather than the Ecuadorian one in the case. But the Ecuadorian government believes they have the natural right to question about the death of 26 people in their territory. “The Prosecutor’s Office is an autonomous judicial entity. And the executive power has no capacity of appointing, intervening, controlling or deciding for it”, said Fander Falconi, Secretary of State. And even though that may be true, it is as true as there are State interests in a democracy that force to call the powers together. If all were solved in court, there would be no diplomacy, and if all the conflicts among countries ended up in trials such as this one, the world would live in eternal war.

In that sense, as analysts have suggested, Ecuador could seek a way out, without tampering the laws of the institutions, that could overcome such serious issue. The question is whether Correa can and wants to do it.

In the best case scenario, this new problem would only be judicial. But there are some who believe the whole affair might be a political trap by those who want to sabotage the rapprochement of Correa with Bogotá. In the worst of cases, it would be a display of Ecuador’s power that intends to show it as a strong government.

Meanwhile, prosecutor Jiménez told SEMANA: “I will wear out all the investigative options”. Many believe his next step will be the order for the capture of Colombian police general Óscar Naranjo, or even president Uribe, and that would be the last straw to brake the camel's back.

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EDICIÓN 1829

PORTADA

Gran encuesta presidencial

Vargas Lleras arranca fuerte, Petro está estancado, Fajardo tiene cómo crecer y los partidos tradicionales andan rezagados. Entre los uribistas, Ramos se ve fuerte. Y Santos tiene 35 por ciento de aceptación. Gran encuesta de Invamer para Caracol Televisión, Blu Radio y SEMANA.