South America's Hottest Border Area

| January 23, 2002

South America's Hottest Border Area

Armed conflicts in Colombia have prompted neighboring Ecuador to bolster security along the border to keep out paramilitary groups and drug traffickers, reports Kintto Lucas of Inter Press Service. Despite the increased presence of a special forces unit called the 'Jungle Tigers,' residents are worried the war will spill into the country anyway.

The Jungle Tigers, trained at the Jungle and Counterinsurgency School in Ecuador, are skilled in surviving physically and psychologically in the jungle.
They carry out their missions in coordination with an anti-narcotics group trained by U.S. advisers.

In addition to helping train the Special Mobile Anti-Narcotics group, Lucas reports that the U.S. government offered the Ecuadorian government helicopters, speedboats, and weapons. Ecuadorian Defense Minister Hugo Unda describes the U.S. aid received as 'very insignificant,' and says that funds from Ecuador's government are being used to build new military posts along the border.

While Unda says the forces along the border will be a barrier against any invasion by Colombian guerillas, residents along the border are worried, especially after a near breakdown of peace talks. ''The war in Colombia has been going on for 40 years, and it has never leaked over the border,' says one shopkeeper. 'Now, by trying to fight it, we could enter into a war without end.'
--Kate Garsombke
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