Preventing interstate between Colombia and Ecuador (and Venezuela)


A war between Colombia and Ecuador, which was likely to have drawn in Venezuela as well, was avoided with the help of a diplomatic intervention from the Organisation of American States and the Rio Group.

In February 2008, Colombian troops raided a Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) camp situated in Ecuador without informing the Ecuadorian government. Dozens were killed in the attack, including citizens of Ecuador and Mexico.1 In response, the Government of Ecuador severed relations with Colombia and called for an international investigation. The Government of Venezuela offered its support to Ecuador, denouncing the attack as a war crime, closing its border with Colombia, and mobilising thousands of troops along the frontier.2 Intelligence acquired during the raid linked the Government of Venezuela with FARC, leading the Government of Colombia to ask the International Criminal Court to charge the Venezuelan president with genocide.3 With troops gathering on the border, suspicion in the air, and relations at a historic low, the crisis presented a significant risk of sparking an interstate conflict.

In response to the crisis, the Organisation of American States (OAS) convened its Permanent Council and published a declaration condemning breaches of sovereignty and acts of aggression, committing the Organisation to ensuring the pacific settlement of the dispute, and activating mechanisms to bring the two conflicting nations together.4 This resulted in the formation of a Commission, led by the OAS Secretary-General, which was dispatched to the region to investigate the crisis and propose formulas for its resolution. These quick and decisive actions helped to diffuse the standoff.5 While the Commission conducted its investigation, heads of state from across Latin America (including Colombia and Ecuador) were attending the 20th Summit of the Rio Group. The meeting served to facilitate dialogue and provided a forum for representatives from across the region to encourage a peaceful resolution to the crisis.6 The President of Dominica, for example, engineered a face-to-face meeting between his counterparts from Colombia and Ecuador which culminated with the Colombian president issuing a formal apology.7 The summit concluded with a joint-statement condemning the breach of Ecuadorian sovereignty and endorsing the previous OAS declaration and investigation.8 Thanks to the presence of effective regional intergovernmental fora and the diplomatic efforts of member states, a potentially devastating interstate conflict was prevented from taking place.

1 Gabriel Marcella. War Without Borders: The Colombia-Ecuador Crisis of 2008. (Carlisle: Strategic Studies Institute, 2008) pp.5-6

2 Rory Carroll & Sibylla Brodzinsky. “Threat of war as Venezuela and Ecuador order troops to Colombian border.” The Guardian. (2008) Available at: (Accessed 25/11/2020)

3 BBC. “Colombia calls for Chavez charges.” BBC News. (2008) Available at: (Accessed 25/11/2020)

4 Resolution of the March 2008 Meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS). OEA/SER.G: CP/RES.930 (1632/08) (2008) in Committee on Foreign Relations. Playing with Fire: Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2008)

5 MercoPress. “OAS resolution eases tension between Colombia and Ecuador.” MercoPress News. (2008) Available at: (Accessed 25/11/2020)

6 Ray Walser. “The Crisis in the Andes: Ecuador, Colombia, and Venezuela.” Heritage Lectures, No. 1080. (2008) p.10

7 BBC. “Ecuador seeks to censure Colombia.” BBC News. (2008) Available at: (Accessed 25/11/2020)

8 Declaration of the Heads of State and Government of the Rio Groupon the Recent Events Between Ecuador and Colombia, 2008. in Committee on Foreign Relations. Playing with Fire: Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 2008)

Start Year


End Year




UN Regional Group

Latin America and the Caribbean

Type of Conflict

Risk of an interstate conflict

Type of Initiative


Main Implementing Organisation(s)

The Organisation of American States and the Rio Group




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