Colombian Consul Removed from Venezuela for Supporting the Opposition

Colombia agreed to withdraw its consul in Maracaibo, Zulia state, on Monday, after a conversation was aired on Venezuelan state TV that showed Consul Carlos Fajardo to be supportive of the Venezuelan opposition.
José Obdulio Gaviria, adviser to Uribe. (El Espectador)

Mérida, December 1, 2008 ( Colombia agreed to withdraw its consul in Maracaibo, Zulia state, on Monday, after a conversation was aired on Venezuelan state TV that showed Consul Carlos Fajardo to be supportive of the Venezuelan opposition.

On Saturday a recording of a conversation between Carlos Fajardo and José Obdulio Gaviria, cousin to the now dead narco-trafficker Pablo Escobar Gaviria, and current adviser to Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, was played on the Venezuelan state TV program, "The papers of Mandinga."

According to the program's host, Alberto Nolia, Gaviria is also responsible for the demobilization of paramilitaries and their subsequent reorganization as the group called "The Black Eagles." Nolia said the conversation took place on November 24, the day after the regional elections.

In the conversation, Fajardo talks with Gaviria about the recent regional election results where he says, "it's turned out very well…the two people are very good friends and I think that for our work here, it should be fantastic… the results numerically were very favorable, strategically favorable to the opposition."

Fajardo says that Pablo Perez, the new opposition governor of Zulia state, which borders Colombia, is "a very special friend here of ours."

"We have potential, I already spoke to them this morning and we're going to meet to look at taking some action at the level of government, because I'm thinking about what we are doing there. I need your go ahead, because when you tell me ‘start', I'll get going," Fajardo said in the conversation. He indicated that he would meet Gaviria in the first week of December and said, "This is very good news, if things from there crystallize."

Nolia analyzed their objective as being, "to infiltrate with thugs and paramilitaries" and later on in the program he showed an email supposedly written between Diego Arria, a Venezuelan opposition politician, and Antonio Ledezma, the new opposition mayor of Greater Caracas. In the letter they discuss a meeting in San Cristobal (capital of Tachira state, also on the border to Colombia) of various members of the opposition who won in the recent regional elections as well as the mayor of Cucuta (Colombian border town), who, according to Nolia, is one of the "most important bosses of…The Black Eagles."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said he believed the opposition was making plans to create a "half moon" out of the border states, making reference to opposition leaning states in Bolivia who have tried to separate from the country.  

The opposition recently won the governorships of Tachira and Zulia, two states bordering Colombia.

After the conversation was aired, but before the Colombian government announced the removal of the consul, Chavez said, "Either they take [the consul] out or he'll be kicked out."

Speaking on the opposition TV channel, Globovision, Fajardo responded that he felt his right to privacy had been violated and denounced the disrespect shown towards the official phones of the consulate, calling the recording of the conversation a crime. According to El Universal the conversation was "presumably recorded by the Venezuelan intelligence services."

Officially, Fajardo was accused of immersing himself in the internal affairs of the country. International law sates that agreements between governments must be made through the foreign ministers of the respective countries.

Further Accusations

On the weekend, José Vicente Rangel also made an accusation on his program "José Vicente Today," that Colombian tugboats were entering Venezuelan ports.

"These tugboats are heading towards the petroleum ports of the golf of Venezuela…added to this is the supply contract that [Venezuelan state owned] PDV-Marina has with the North American company OSG (Overseas Shipping Group), which was involved in the petroleum strike."

Rangel said there is a presumption that Colombian coal concessions would be in the hands of the paramilitaries and that the "north enclave of Cerrejon coal, operated by a US consortium is the biggest emitter of royalties for Uribia and Maicao where the narco-paramilitary group, The Black Eagles, operates."

Uribia and Maicao are regions in the Colombian state of Guajira, on the north-eastern tip of the country and bordering Venezuela.

Finally, Rangel noted that the paramilitary group "United Self Defense of Colombia" and the Black Eagles took sanctuary in that area and are responsible for crimes, massacres, and the displacement of the indigenous Wayuu community, and that substantial resources from mining royalties had disappeared, which were intended for infrastructure construction.