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Chavez: “Colombia is the Israel of Latin America.”

Monday, March 03, 2008 ( - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez labeled Colombia the "Israel of Latin America" on his Sunday talk show Aló Presidente yesterday. Responding to events on Saturday in which the Colombian military made an illegal attack across the border in Ecuadorian territory, the Venezuelan leader called Colombia a "terrorist state," and gave orders to mobilize troops on the Venezuelan-Colombian border.

"The Colombian government has turned into the Israel of Latin America," said Chavez during his show on Sunday.

"Colombia is a terrorist state that is subject to the great terrorist, the government of the United States and their apparatus," he explained.

The Venezuelan president spoke in response to an attack and killing on the part of the Colombian military of several FARC guerrillas, including top leader Raul Reyes, on Saturday morning. Chavez called the killing a "cowardly murder" and condemned the attack for having illegally crossed the Colombian border into Ecuador.

"They bombed from the north and the south of the border," he said. "In other words, they attacked inside Ecuadorian territory."

President Chavez spoke on the telephone with Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa about the attack and the violation of Ecuador's sovereignty. According to Correa, who ordered an investigation of the events, the Colombian military attacked the guerrillas using precision bombs while they were sleeping inside Ecuadorian territory, killing at least 15 men and women, and leaving two female guerrillas injured. The Ecuadorian military said the bodies were still in their pajamas when they found them.

"This was not a battle. It was a cowardly murder," said Chavez. "This was all coldly calculated, and the truth is starting to come out."

Chavez offered any necessary support to his Ecuadorian counterpart and informed his audience that the government of Ecuador would be withdrawing their ambassador from Bogota, and mobilizing troops to the Colombian border. Chavez gave orders during the show for his government to do the same.

"Move ten battalions to the border with Colombian immediately," he said to his defense minister. "We don't want war, but we are not going to allow the North American empire, which is their master, and their puppy-dog President Uribe and the Colombian oligarchy to come divide us, to weaken us. We are not going to allow it."

The Venezuelan president then gave orders to his foreign minister to close the Venezuelan embassy in Bogota and withdraw all the officials that work there, bringing relations between the countries to their lowest point in recent history.

Chavez sharply criticized Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, accusing him of leading a "criminal" government, and warned the Colombian leader that any kind of incursion into Venezuelan territory on the part of the Colombian military would be a cause for war between the two countries.

"This is very serious. If this were to happen in Venezuela it would be a cause for war," said Chavez. "Don't even think about it or I'll launch an air attack."

Chavez compared the actions of the Colombian government to those of Israel in the Middle East who he accused of "invading," "bombing," and "killing" the Palestinian people with the intention of "preventing the union of the Arabic world."

"It is the fist of the empire," he said. "And we're not going to let them plant another Israel here in Latin America."

Washington, who supports the Colombian war against the FARC and provides the Colombian government with more military aid than any other country outside the Middle East, said it was monitoring events in the region.

Crime Prevention

Earlier in the show, President Chavez spoke with police and security forces in Caracas about how to reduce the level of crime in the country. Although he reported that crime has fallen significantly in the last year, Chavez discussed plans to better coordinate forces in the fight against crime, and to focus on prevention.

He also announced a raise in the salaries for public officials like police officers, firefighters, and other security forces.

Chavez ended the show with the approval of more than Bs.F. 123 million (US$ 57 million) to finance public works to improve roads and public spaces around the city of Caracas.

Published on Mar 3rd 2008 at 9.50am