Colombian President Denies Making Critical Statement about Venezuela

Colombia issued a communiqué that denied that President Alvaro Uribe had remarked that, "Caracas should reflect [on its weapons purchases] or isolate itself," as was widely reported in the press.

Caracas, Venezuela, April 14, 2005—Colombia and Venezuela are once again on good terms thanks to a communiqué released by the Colombian government yesterday that clarified recent statements made by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe during his ten-day Asian tour.  The communiqué, sent from New York by Colombian Presidential spokesperson Ricardo Galán, read, “the President of Colombia asked the Japanese and Chinese governments for all of the support possible in the fight against terrorism,” adding that, “in no moment did [Uribe] mention the sister Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, nor its government.”

Through a radio transmission broadcast last night from Bogotá, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Colombia, Carlos Rodolfo Santiago, reported that the Venezuela government has accepted this explanation.  “We are satisfied,” stated Santiago.

The latest Colombian-Venezuelan controversy was sparked while Uribe was visiting a Colombian colony in Tokyo on Saturday, April 9th.  Various media outlets reported that the Colombian President had remarked, “Caracas should reflect [on its weapons purchases] or isolate itself.”

According to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, promptly after the statement was made, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez requested clarification regarding the matter from the Colombian government, which did not respond.

Chávez first publicly addressed the matter yesterday, during the opening ceremony of the 3rd Global Encounter in Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution. “It is regrettable that a government, whoever it was, a brother, a neighbor, could be lending itself to the imperialism’s play against Venezuela,” the Venezuelan President affirmed.

After making it clear that he regretted “having to fall again into this,” Chávez stated that he was unable to remain silent on the matter. “I have said to President Uribe one and one hundred times that I hope that some day his government will stop making disrespectful statements like this towards Venezuela.”

The Venezuela President then requested a prompt clarification. “We hope that the government of President Uribe clarifies this…If President Uribe actually said that, then he is very mistaken, because Venezuela will not isolate itself, not now, not ever…today, more than ever, Venezuela is accompanied by the people of the world and by the people of this continent.”

A few hours later the Colombian government issued its concise communiqué.

Although the communiqué denied that Uribe made such statements, the initial impact of the news reports came at a critical moment for the Bolivarian government.  Caracas is currently is the process of purchasing 100,000 AK-47 riffles from Russia to replace the 30-year old Belgium models the army is currently using. Additionally, as part of the effort to secure the porous 1,400 mile Colombian-Venezuelan border and prevent drugs and terrorists from infiltrating it, the Chávez administration has also signed agreements to buy Super Tucano light-attack propeller planes from Brazil and eight boats and ten transport aircraft from Spain.

During the opening ceremony of the Encounter, Chávez expressed his concern that Uribe’s statement might be the catalyst that the United States has been looking for to portray his government as a “terrorist.” “It could be that tomorrow, or the next day, that a box of the same ammunition appears (in Colombia)…then someone will say ‘Chávez bought the ammunition to give it to the Colombian guerrillas,” he speculated.

A slew of statements emitted on an almost daily basis from the US State Department have questioned Venezuela’s purchases, conjuring up a number of hypothetical scenarios from an arms race with Colombia about the possibility that the weapons will fall into the hands of US “terrorist” groups. “It’s similar to the way they said there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq where there were no weapons of mass destruction. It was all false!” Chávez affirmed before a crowd of political activists in the Teresa Careño Theater. “Venezuela will not be isolated.”

Defending Sovereignty Against Imperialist Aggression

In addition to attending the opening of the 3rd Global Encounter in Solidarity with the Bolivarian Revolution, Chávez presided over the first ever “Military Reserve and National Mobilization Day” by swearing in commanders of the new Military Reserve unit and speaking before its newest 22,000 volunteers.

Chávez has called for the creation of a 1.5 million strong National Reserve to fulfill Articles 322 and 326 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which state that the defense of the nation is the responsibility of all Venezuelans.  “We are going with all of the patriotic spirit and the national moral to participate, in body and soul, in this act where they are going to activate the National Body of Reserves.” Thus far, almost 200,000 Venezuelans have enlisted in what has come to be known as the fifth component of the National Armed Forces. 

On a related note, a group of Argentine militants, unemployed and impoverished, known as the “piqueteros,” expressed their intention yesterday to join the Venezuelan Reserves in order to defend the nation’s sovereignty.