Ecuador severed its diplomatic relations with Colombia and Venezuela expelled all Colombian diplomats Monday to protest Colombia's unilateral cross-border raid against rebels Saturday.
The Colombian military killed Raul Reyes, second-in-command of Colombia's largest rebel group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), in a raid across the Colombia-Ecuador border.
The following provides the background to ties between Colombia and its neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela.
Ecuador lies to the southwest of Colombia, and the two countries have a border of over 580 km in length. Ecuador and Colombia, both of whom are members of the Andean Common Market established in 1969 to promote South America's economic integration, have cooperated in establishing a free trade zone, building regional economic blocs and fighting drug trafficking.
However, as the Colombia-Ecuador border region has been the scene of many of FARC's activities, the Colombian military has from time to time crossed the border to attack FARC rebels in Ecuador. This has strained bilateral relations.
Moreover, Colombia and Ecuador have frequent disputes regarding coca plants and protecting the environment along their border region.
Colombia and its eastern neighbor Venezuela share a 2200-km border. In recent years, Colombian rebels have frequently sought safe havens in Venezuela to avoid attacks by the Colombian military. The Colombian government is deeply unsatisfied with the fact, and often accuses Venezuela of providing shelter for the rebels.
Moreover, Venezuela withdrew from the Andean Common Market in April 2006, believing the newly-signed free trade treaties between the United States and Colombia and the United States and Peru greatly harmed its interests.
Venezuela and Colombia also have many differences regarding regional integration and the issue of exchanging FARC rebels imprisoned by Colombian authorities for hostages held by FARC.
After the Colombian military's cross-border actions Saturday, Ecuador, in protest, expelled the Colombian ambassador from the country Sunday and recalled its ambassador to Colombia.
Also Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the closure of Venezuela's embassy in Colombia and the mobilization of Venezuela’s armed forces to the border with Colombia.