Maverick Viñales dodges disaster after bailing out at 228 kph

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Refugee row over South American nation’s suspension of permits signals potential for showdown with US ally

Maverick Viñales dodges disaster after bailing out at 228 kph

Colombia’s landlocked neighbour Ecuador today refused the appeal of a South American defector who bailed out at more than 230 kph (140 mph), triggering a temporary suspension of South American permits for the resumption of conflict.

Cotto, a 17-year veteran of the Colombian armed forces, escaped to Ecuador on Sunday after his forces failed to crush the fifth column of Marxist Farc rebels, who regularly stage raids on the Colombian countryside.

He has denied reports that he left the army after claiming that he witnessed massacres of civilians and the secret mass incarceration of hundreds of black peasants in army camps.

On the eve of International Human Rights Day, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos announced suspension of Colombia’s application for bilateral refugee rights.

However, his alliance with US ally Ecuador has provided a potential way out of the crisis.

Authorities in Quito said the government had issued orders that suspended the process for up to one month.

“The government has decided not to send a humanitarian mission to Colombia. The fact that Cotto left Colombia is, in our opinion, proof that the rights to human rights are not being respected,” the foreign minister, Guillaume Long, said.

Colombia issued a deadline of Thursday for Cotto to return to Colombia, in an apparent bid to expel him without him fleeing on foot.

Cotto’s journey through Ecuador to Peru was aided by smugglers who apparently exploited a power cut in Quito that prevented authorities from enforcing previous travel bans that precluded him from entering Ecuador without a special permit.

Meanwhile, Cotto’s lawyer, Lilian Patino, told Colombia’s RCN Radio that her client had received 24 rounds of a dart-filled jimmy dart, after turning himself in to authorities in Lima on Tuesday.

Patino, who lives in Ecuador, said Cotto had spent nearly two days in hiding before turning himself in at the border crossing between Ecuador and Peru.

On Wednesday Colombia ordered the expulsion of its three diplomats in Ecuador in response to Quito’s reluctance to expel Cotto.

In separate incidents, police stormed the Farc-controlled coast in Colombia’s north and also shot down two Farc helicopters at an area near the border with Venezuela.

The Farc said it had no relationship with Cotto.

Human rights activists said they were alarmed by the development, which echoes a political feud between Colombia and Ecuador in 2009 when Ecuador backed away from a proposed agreement between the two countries to jointly confront the Farc in their territories.

“This potentially could lead to a full-blown military confrontation between Ecuador and Colombia that has the potential to explode into a military conflict”, said Dario Castro, an Ecuadorian rights activist.

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