March 7, 2008


Colombians back president: A poll shows Uribe's popularity has climbed since the raid in Ecuador. Many slam Hugo Chavez instead. (Chris Kraul, 3/07/08, Los Angeles Times)

Planned long before the region's crisis erupted, the rally was organized to underscore the government's role in decades of violence and misery, to remind Colombians that it was not all the fault of rebel groups like the FARC.

But most marchers couldn't bring themselves to knock Uribe for having brought Colombia to its most serious diplomatic standoff in decades.

Their mood is indicative of a public that has rallied behind Uribe, even as Venezuelan and Ecuadorean troops have gathered at the border, those neighbors -- joined by Nicaragua on Thursday -- have broken diplomatic ties and Chavez has threatened to hurt Colombia by freezing trade and using other tactics.

A poll conducted in four cities this week showed Uribe's popularity has climbed since the raid to an 83% approval rating. Although the poll was commissioned by the government, it still reflects popular sentiment, said Cesar Caballero, head of the independent polling firm Concepts and Figures in Bogota.

"First, there is a tremendous solidarity behind Uribe for the gross language Chavez has used toward him," Caballero said. "Also, there is a growing outrage against the FARC for its brutality, kidnappings and extortions, which the government uses at every opportunity in its favor."

Even opinion makers such as magazine columnist Daniel Coronell, who often take an anti-Uribe stance, have lined up behind the president. "The intrusion of the government of Venezuela is a hugely disturbing factor that blocks the path to a resolution."

Nearly all those interviewed at the rally saw the chance of war as remote, despite Chavez's statements and Venezuela's having sent 9,000 troops to its border, along with tanks and aircraft. Ecuador deployed 3,200 troops, and a government spokeswoman announced Thursday that its army had captured five suspected Colombian guerrillas on its side of the line. Colombia has sent no extra troops as yet.

"It's just talk," said Alejandro Alvarez, a lawyer from the eastern city of Arauca. "There is a conflict, but it's a political and diplomatic conflict that won't reach physical war. Chavez can send all the troops he wants. But it's another thing to fire shots."

If only they had an upcoming soccer match.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 7, 2008 8:07 AM

Wonder if we could trip-lease a B-2 to Colombia and sell them a few 2000-pounder JDAMs on credit.

Posted by: Mike Morley at March 7, 2008 8:48 AM

Columbia is twice as big of a country and has an American trained and armed army with battle experience. Chavez has re-armed his army with Russian equipment. Enough said.

He will never pull the trigger. His army will get whipped and he will be dead or overthrown

Posted by: Bob at March 7, 2008 10:00 AM


Then again, this is a man who believe price controls work. He just might...

Posted by: Mike Earl at March 7, 2008 11:02 AM

With all this going on , the BBC World News story on Colombia last night was about right-wing paramilitaries and how the people are mad at the government for not curbing them.

Posted by: Foos at March 7, 2008 1:22 PM