Mérida, May 2nd 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) — On Thursday, the U.S. State Department released its Country Reports on Terrorism for 2008, in which it asserts that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's "ideological sympathy" with the Colombian guerrillas "limited Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism."
The report criticizes Venezuela for not systematically policing its 1,400 mile border with Colombia, which left-wing guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries from Colombia are believed to have crossed to take refuge and raise funds illegally.
The report also says Venezuela has not sufficiently investigated and prosecuted public officials who are suspected of supporting Colombian guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN), and does not properly monitor international flight arrivals from Iran, which is classified as a state sponsor of terrorism in the report.
During a May Day march on Friday, President Chávez rejected the report. "A new report by the U.S. government has come out attacking Venezuela once again. From here, I reject, in the name of the Venezuelan people, this new aggression by the North American empire," he said.
"If there is any government that has attacked the people of our continent and the world, using different illegal, violent, terrorist methods for more than a hundred years, it has been the United States government," said Chávez. "Leave us in peace! We have been able to break the chains of centuries and be free. And we will be free."
Chávez has consistently advocated against a military solution to the nearly fifty-year conflict in Colombia, and has pressured for the international community to consider the FARC and ELN belligerent armies rather than terrorist groups, in order to enable peaceful negotiations.
In early 2008, Chávez negotiated the unilateral release of six FARC hostages. He later publicly called on the FARC to release all their hostages and disarm, and asserted that "guerrilla warfare is history."
After the Colombian military bombarded a FARC encampment within Ecuadoran territory in March 2008, Chávez harshly criticized the policy of Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, calling it militaristic and disrespectful of national sovereignty. Chávez also held a moment of silence for the FARC's second-in-command who was killed in the attack.
This year, Uribe and Chávez have met in person three times and pledged to cooperate to create peace in Colombia, establish a bi-national investment bank, and construct a bi-national oil pipeline.
On Wednesday, Uribe asked the Chávez government to capture a group of FARC militants who, Uribe said, had killed eight Colombian soldiers in a battle in eastern Colombia then took refuge in Venezuelan territory.
"We have asked the Venezuelan authorities, we ask President Hugo Chávez to help us capture these outlaws," said Uribe. "I am sure that President Chávez is going to be in solidarity with the life of our soldiers."
President Chávez replied by reiterating that his administration does not support guerrilla groups, and warning both the FARC and the Colombian military to keep their conflict out of Venezuela.
"We do not support the Colombian guerrillas. We do not support armed movements in any part of the world," said Chávez. "I have the same position as always. We will not permit any armed incursion, wherever it comes from, to violate Venezuelan sovereignty."
Chávez said he desires peace in Colombia, and that Venezuela will stay out of the conflict. "This war is not ours. This war is Colombia's, shamefully. And we are not going to insert ourselves in this war."
Meanwhile, at the meeting of ministers of the Non-Aligned Countries Movement, Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolás Maduro, said Venezuelan security forces would apprehend any military forces that come from Colombia.
"The different types of irregular Colombian forces that participate in the conflict know that they may not enter Venezuelan territory, they may not break the law and they will be confronted by all the possible force of the Venezuelan authorities," said Maduro.
Since May 2008, the U.S. has classified Venezuela as a country that "does not fully cooperate" with the U.S.'s anti-terrorism efforts. It has also accused Venezuela of not cooperating in the U.S.'s anti-drug trafficking efforts. Venezuela has responded by citing increased drug interdictions in Venezuela since 2005 and telling the U.S. to focus on its own drug consumption problem.