Venezuela Puts Relations with Colombia “In the Freezer”

"I declare to the world that I am putting relations with Colombia in the freezer, because I have lost all trust in the Colombian government," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Sunday after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe launched a verbal attack on Chavez.
Chavez says he is putting relations with Colombia "in the freezer" (VTV)

Caracas, November 26, 2007
( – "I declare to the world that I am putting relations
with Colombia in the freezer, because I have lost all trust in the Colombian
government," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced Sunday after Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe launched a verbal attack on Chavez after calling
off all negotiations for a humanitarian exchange of 45 high-profile hostages
held by insurgent guerillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

On Wednesday Uribe had terminated the
mediation efforts of Chavez and Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba, who had been
working to secure the release of the hostages since Uribe approved their mediating
roles on August 31, citing telephone conversation between Chavez and Colombian
General Mario Montoya of less than one minute as a "violation" of Colombian
sovereignty. Uribe's announcement came only hours after U.S. Ambassador William
Brownfield slammed the negotiations.

Senator Cordoba, who was handpicked by
Uribe to lead negotiations with the FARC, has also confirmed that she is now
under investigation by the Colombian Supreme Court for the crimes of "treason
against the homeland," and "collusion."

Speaking on Venezuelan political
commentary program, La Hojilla ("The
Razorblade") on Friday evening, Chavez had said the Colombian government used a
"silly thing as an excuse" to terminate the mediation. He also denied Uribe's
version of a conversation between the two presidents at the Ibero – American
summit in Chile,
where Uribe alleged he had prohibited Chavez from speaking with Colombian
military personal and accused Uribe of showing a lack of respect for failing to
telephone him before he made the announcement.

"They spit brutally in our face when
we worked heart and soul to try to get them on the road to peace," Chavez

Uribe, whose government is engulfed in
a "parapolitics" scandal, linking many of his political supporters and family members
to drug-trafficking paramilitary death squads, then attacked Chavez on Sunday
accusing him of having an "expansionist project" and "setting fire to the

Uribe also accused Chavez of aiming to
install a "terrorist FARC government," in Colombia. "We need mediation with
terrorists and not people who try to lend legitimacy to terrorism," he said.

However, husband of French-Colombian
citizen Ingrid Betancourt, held by the FARC since 2002, Juan Carlos Lecompte,
lauded the "civilized" approach of Chavez and Cordoba during their three month mediation effort
to achieve an humanitarian exchange. "President Uribe wants to resolve the
problem with violence, with the use of arms, with the use of bullets, without
giving importance to the lives of the hostages," he said

Lecompte also argued that every time institutions
such as the Red Cross, the Catholic Church, or other countries or persons have
attempted to mediate between the Colombian government and the guerillas to
achieve a humanitarian accord, Uribe has "systematically blocked" these

Chavez said he felt particularly sad
for the families of the hostages and ridiculed Uribe's claims, saying, "His
mask has fallen. He uses the same discourse of the United
States, of imperialism, that is repeated by the right
wing of Latin America."

He also said he had his doubts about
the Colombian High Commissioner for Peace, Luis Restrepo who he called the
"High Commissioner for War."

"We made efforts, but I believe that
the government of Colombia
does not want peace. Now I am convinced by the kick that they gave the [negotiating]
table to avoid peace."

Chavez also pointed out that "Uribe
lied in the communiqué, when he claimed that Colombia has never violated
Venezuelan sovereignty," referring to the covert action in 2004 during which
Colombian military operatives illegally entered Venezuelan territory and
kidnapped Rodrigo Granda, a FARC leader also illegally in Venezuela.

Fighting between the FARC guerillas
and Colombian military has also often spilt over the border into Venezuelan
territory and the rightwing Colombian paramilitary group, the Auto-Defense
Units of Colombia, is known to operate in some Venezuelan frontier states.

"I hope that the conflicts do not
increase, because there are millions of Colombians in Venezuela that we have
given dual nationality, that are integrated with us," Chavez continued, however
he assured, " the majority are Bolivarians."

An estimated two million Colombians
live in Venezuela,
many of them refugees from the 40 year civil war in their home country.

"We want unity and peace with Colombia – the
grand dream of Bolivar and Miranda," Chavez affirmed.

"Colombia deserves a better
president, because they are a dignified people, like the Venezuelan people," he

Venezuela is considering closing its embassy in Bogotá,
however, while Chavez said it is possible that diplomatic relations could
return to normal, "There is no reconciliation."

Chavez also said later in a television interview on Sunday
that he was ruling out any return to the Andean Community of Nations. Venezuela had been considering rejoining the CAN after
it withdrew last year to protest Peru
and Colombia's decision to
enter into bilateral free trade agreements with the United States.