Merida, July 16th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Following accusations by the Colombian government that Venezuela is purposefully tolerating the presence of Colombian guerrilla “terrorists” in its territory, Venezuelan government officials have responded, saying the accusations are part of a “defamation” media campaign and attempts by the outgoing Colombian government to prevent good relations between the two countries.
Yesterday the Colombian government said it had “clear evidence” that five FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) and ELN (National Liberation Army) leaders were “sheltering” in Venezuela.
Its Defence Minister Gabriel Silva said that grid references of FARC and ELN camps in Venezuela supposedly gathered by Colombian intelligence agencies, proved Venezuela’s “continued and permanent tolerance” of guerrillas in its territory.
“We have overwhelming evidence of… a terrorist presence in Venezuela,” said Silva, who claimed there was evidence that a FARC leader, Ivan Marquez, had been meeting other FARC leaders in Venezuela, and also named a number of other FARC and ELN leaders who were supposed to be in Venezuela.
Then today the Colombian government requested an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) “as soon as possible” to “examine the presence of Colombian terrorists in Venezuelan territory”.
News agency ANSA quoted the governments’ statement, which said that the Colombian government was making the request because “direct dialogue with Venezuela” had failed.
Also, spokesperson for the US State Department, Phillip Crowley, told press the “possible” presence of “rebels in Venezuelan territory” has worried his government for a long time.
This afternoon president Hugo Chavez responded to the accusations, saying he wouldn’t fall for the provocations.
“But that doesn’t mean that we’re going to disrespect ourselves… because president [Alvaro] Uribe is mafia and is capable of anything in the last few days that remain for him,” he said.
Uribe hands over power to his successor and his former defence minister, Juan Manuel Santos on 7 August. Santos invited Chavez to his swearing in, a sign of a desire for better relations, but he attacked Chavez during his election campaign. Chavez has not yet said if he will attend.
“What’s happening here is the despair of a group of the extreme right around Uribe who are trying to generate a big conflict and prevent Santos from re-establishing respectful relations with his sister Veneuzela,” Chavez said.
Chavez also criticised opposition leaders in Venezuela who have assumed “the tall story to be the truth”.
Venezuelan Minister for Foreign Affairs Nicolas Maduro said Colombia’s accusations were “part of the same script used by the international ultra-right against the Bolivarian Revolution.”
He called it “defamation” and recalled three other times when the current Colombian administration had lied, “in the case of Rodrigo Granda, in the two supposed uranium factories in Venezuela, and in the case of the rockets.” Granda was a FARC representative in Venezuela negotiating for hostage releases, and the case of the rockets involved claims by the Colombian government that Venezuelan armed forced had delivered arms to Colombian guerrillas.
“We’ve had to resist dozens of aggressions and lies by the outgoing government of Colombia,” Maduro said.
The Venezuelan government has always wanted to “construct a relationship with Colombia, we are ready for that and we know how to do it, but we need a profound rectification and the abandoning of violence.. but the Uribe government has decided to attack the people of Venezuela and destroy the possibilities of an advance in the normalisation of [our] bilateral relations.”
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry also put out a formal statement today responding to the accusations by the Colombian government, in which it called Uribe’s eight years of governance years of “failed diplomacy and militarism” that “left the country in war, its government…distanced from its neighbours.”
“We hope the new government welcomes…the proposal for a peace plan for Colombia, that allows for a …deeper solution to the armed conflict that is affecting [them].”
“The pathetic media spectacle…constitutes a desperate attempt to wear away the possibility of an eventual normalisation of bilateral relations,” the statement continued.
The statement also claimed that the Silva consulted the U.S ambassador in Colombia before giving his press conference. It said that every time Colombia has reported the presence of “irregular groups” in Venezuelan territory, the Venezuelan government has proven them to be false, and sometimes the coordinates given were even in Colombian territory.
The ministry statement concluded that the Venezuelan government will always bring the “weight of the law” against any “irregular groups” on its border with Colombia and said that should the situation of “lies, aggression and disrespect” towards Venezuela continue, it will take serious political and diplomatic measures.
Maduro told press today that the government will incorporate its ambassador in Colombia in meetings this afternoon where they will discuss what measures to take regarding Venezuela’s relationship with Colombia.
Last August Venezuela froze relations with Colombia after the U.S and Colombia signed an agreement to install seven U.S military bases in Colombian territory. Colombia, with one of the few right wing governments left in South America, and a strong supporter of U.S policy, is of strategic importance to the U.S’s interests in South America.