Mérida, March 4th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — The Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry and National Assembly strongly denounced declarations made by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, in which Santos called Colombia’s attack against a guerrilla camp in Ecuadoran territory one year ago an act of “legitimate defense.”
“The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela views with great suspicion and rejects [Santos’s] irresponsible declarations, which constitute a threat to the stability and sovereignty of the countries in the region,” the Foreign Relations Ministry stated.
On March 1st 2008, the Colombian military conducted an air and land raid of an encampment of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadoran territory, killing the FARC second-in-command, Raúl Reyes, among 24 others.
The act set off a regional diplomatic crisis during which Venezuela sent National Guard battalions to the Colombian border and temporarily suspended cross-border trade. The dispute cooled with a bitter handshake between presidents Álvaro Uribe of Colombia and Rafael Correa of Ecuador at an emergency regional summit a week later.
A joint declaration signed by all heads of state at the March 7th summit stated, “The territory of a state is inviolable and may not be the object of military occupation or other forceful means used by another state, directly or indirectly, whatever the motive, even temporarily.”
This week, Santos called last year’s attack “a well-executed operation by our heroes of the armed forces.” According to Colombian foreign policy, he said, “To strike terrorists who systematically assault the population of a country, even if they are not within its territory, is an act of legitimate defense.”
This doctrine is “more and more accepted by the international law community,” said Santos.
Colombia is the U.S.’s closest ally in Latin America. The U.S. Congress has appropriated at least $5.5 billion in mostly military aid to the civil war-torn nation through Plan Colombia since the year 2000, more U.S. aid than any other country outside of the Middle East.
The Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) approved a resolution Tuesday that “energetically rejects” Santos’s statements and says the statements “constitute aggression toward the neighborly and respectful relationship that should prevail among the countries in the region.”
Constitutional lawyer and AN Legislator Carlos Escarrá said he suspects Colombia is continuing its campaign to categorize Venezuela as a terrorist state in order to justify a U.S.-backed invasion.
Despite ideological differences between Venezuela’s advocacy of “21st Century Socialism” and Colombia’s ongoing efforts to seal a free trade deal with the U.S., Uribe and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez met for the 13th time in January to discuss what they called their “complementary economic policies.”
Venezuela’s Foreign Relations Ministry stated Tuesday that the Chávez administration “ratifies its willingness to move forward on this positive agenda with the Colombian government on the basis of strict respect for international law and the sacred sovereignty of our homeland.”
In response, President Uribe said, “The national government has the greatest interest in developing a constructive and defined agenda with the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez.”
Faced with Ecuador’s demand that Santos be dismissed, Uribe told Santos to “be careful with declarations regarding international relations, which should be made by the Foreign Relations Ministry,” but left the minister in his post.
During their meeting in January, Venezuela and Colombia agreed to meet again this April to move forward on bi-national economic and political projects.