[News] Venezuela cuts ties with Colombia

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 22 16:38:18 EDT 2010

Thursday, July 22, 2010

23:30 Mecca time, 20:30 GMT

Venezuela cuts ties with Colombia


Venezuela has broken off diplomatic relations with Colombia after 
Bogota charged that leftist guerrilla leaders it is fighting are in 
Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, has said.

"I announce with a tear in the heart: Venezuela breaks off from this 
moment all relations with the government of Colombia," Chavez told 
journalists at the presidential palace on Thursday.

"We have no other choice but, out of dignity, to totally break our 
relations with our brother nation of Colombia," the president said 
live on state television, as he hosted a visit by Argentine soccer 
star Diego Maradona.

Nicolas Maduro,Venezuela's foreign minister, declared immediately 
afterwards that Colombia had 72 hours to withdraw its diplomats in 
Venezuela and close its embassy.

Earlier, Colombia's foreign ministry had said that Maria Luisa 
Chiappe, its ambassador to Caracas, Venezuela's capital, would be 
called back to Bogota "to evaluate the situation".

At an emergency meeting of the Washington-based Organisation of 
American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyos, a Colombian diplomat, 
presented evidence that he said suggests Venezuela was harbouring 
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) rebels.

Killings and kidnappings

Hoyos accused Chavez's government of tolerating the rebels who he 
said carried out killings, kidnappings and drug-trafficking on both 
sides of the long frontier.

"The continent cannot allow this nightmare to spread," Hoyos said.

But Roy Chaderton, Venezuela's ambassador, rejected the Colombian 
presentation as a "lie", saying: "There is no evidence, no proof, 
these are photos taken I don't know where."

Hoyos went on to show a series of photos and videos of alleged Farc 
leaders and guerrillas relaxing, roasting pigs and playing a piano at 
camps he said were well inside Venezuela.

"Given the past history on this issue, the most likely outcome is 
going to be stonewalling, postponement, setting up a committee to 
investigate the matter,"

Larry Burns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, Washington

"Facts over recent weeks show that real risks are materialising due 
to the consolidated, active and growing presence of these terrorist 
groups in Venezuela," Hoyos said.

He added that the Venezuelan authorities "tolerate the presence of 
these groups, they don't carry out actions against them".

Sometimes the rebels are even accompanied by members of Venezuela's 
National Guard, Hoyos added.

Farc rebels carried out cross-border attacks from Venezuela as 
recently as June and July, Hoyos said as he showed photographs of 
civilian and military victims of these attacks.

The ambassador's remarks came a week after Alvaro Uribe, Colombia's 
outgoing president who leaves office in August, said his government 
had evidence that five leaders of leftist guerrilla groups were in Venezuela.

Uribe's office is contending the rebel leaders in Venezuela include 
four senior members of Farc and one from the smaller National 
Liberation Army (ELN).

Both rebel movements have been waging an armed campaign against the 
Colombian government since the mid-1960s.

Larry Burns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in 
Washington, told Al Jazeera that "some people believe [Alvaro] Uribe 
wants to shape the future of Colombia's foreign policy and maintain a 
policy of hositility towards Venezuela".

Uribe accusations

"Uribe is the one who disclosed and made the accusation that 
Venezuelans have taken in Farc guerrillas and have provided them with 
hospitality. The incoming president [Juan Manuel Santos] hasn't made 
those charges," he said.

Burns added that it was "unlikely" that the OAS would take any 
decisive action on the matter.

"There are a number of countries in the OAS who are very favourable 
to Hugo Chavez and that includes Argentina, which is a very important 
country in Latin America," he said.

"Given the past history on this issue, the most likely outcome is 
going to be stonewalling, postponement, setting up a committee to 
investigate the matter, but there's going to be an effort to shun any 
clear confrontation because of the fact that the evidence is 
questionable and the motivation is even more questionable."

Colombia and Venezuela cut diplomatic ties last year after Bogota and 
the US signed a military co-operation agreement that Chavez 
considered a threat to regional security.

Chavez has accused Uribe of trying to thwart a normalisation of 
relations when the Colombian leader leaves office August 7.

Uribe, who has had tense relations with his Venezuelan counterpart, 
will be succeeded by Juan Manuel Santos, his former defence minister, 
who has signalled a less hostile approach to Venezuela.
  Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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