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News: International

Chavez Discusses Venezuela-Colombia Conflict with Former Colombian President

Mérida, August 7th 2009 ( -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with former Colombian President Ernesto Samper in Caracas on Thursday to discuss Colombia's recent decision to expand the U.S.'s military presence in its territory, and Venezuela's threat to cut off economic relations with Colombia if the expansion proceeds.

Going into the meeting, Venezuela held firm that Colombia must not go forward with the deal, which would allow the U.S. to deploy thousands of military personnel on seven Colombian bases, a move Chavez says threatens Venezuelan and regional security.

"No mediation is possible. The only way this situation can return to calm is if Colombia desists from giving its territory to the United States so that it continues planning aggressions against us," said Chavez.

During the meeting, Samper agreed to communicate Venezuela's concerns to the Colombian government. "I have taken attentive notes of [Chavez's] concerns, which I plan to bring to the Foreign Relations Advising Commission that will meet next week in Bogota... and of course, to [Colombian] President [Alvaro] Uribe," said Samper.

At Samper's request, Chavez agreed to meet with the governors of the Colombian provinces along the border with Venezuela to discuss the potential impact of cutting-off bi-national trade, which tallied $7 billion last year.

"I asked [Chavez] to listen to the governors of the border provinces and he said he was going to invite them to Caracas. The leaders of Santander, La Guajira, Arauca, Cucuta, and even Caldas, which sells clothing and auto parts [to Venezuela], will be there," Samper said after the meeting.

On Thursday evening, Chavez spoke on national television and requested a meeting with the former foreign relations minister of Colombia, Maria Mejia, to "de-Uribize" the conflict, referring to President Uribe.  

In response to Venezuela's objections to the U.S. military presence last week, Colombia accused Venezuela of aiding the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), saying the Colombian military had seized grenade launchers from the guerilla insurgents that had originally been sold to Venezuela by a Swedish firm in the 1980s. Venezuela says these weapons were stolen from Venezuela in 1995, before Chavez became president.

Since then, Venezuela cut off diplomatic relations with Colombia, suspended the importation of 10,000 Colombian automobiles, and threatened to sever economic ties with Colombia.

On Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama clarified that the U.S. military presence in Colombia does not constitute a U.S. military base in Colombia, since the troops will be operating on Colombian bases.

"We have had a security agreement with Colombia for many years now. We have updated that agreement. We have no intent in establishing a U.S. military base in Colombia," said President Obama. "We have no intention of sending large numbers of additional troops into Colombia," he added.

The U.S. Congress has approved $5.5 billion in mostly military aid to Colombia over the past eight years through its policy titled Plan Colombia, for the official purpose of fighting drug trafficking and terrorism. The U.S. supported a military coup d'état against Chavez in April 2002.

Published on Aug 8th 2009 at 8.57am



While I appreciate that the reporter provides useful background information in the last paragraph, it seems that the last sentence ("The U.S. supported a military coup d'état against Chavez in April 2002.") is not qualified enough justify being included in this article, and adds confusion to what should be a conclusion to the article.

I mean that the last sentence begs for more information - did all of the United States come out in favor of the coup, and, if so, how? From what I understand, in reading internal documents, is that the State Department didn't have a good handle on what was happening and didn't do much, in any case. This is markedly different from the response of then president George W. Bush, who favored regime change in Venezuela and spoke in favor of it. Did the CIA support the coup with funds, or intelligence, or with training or weapons? Was U.S. support tangible or intangible? What credible sources support this idea? I don't know the answers to all these questions, but that last sentence in the article effectively opens them up and shuts then them up.

This sounds like what unreliable sources, like our Fox News, regularly do, which is use cute, little, unqualified pieces of information and present them as if they are all there is to know about something.


Dear John Berrout: Thank you for your helpful and welcome comment. By briefly mentioning the U.S.'s support for the April 2002 coup, my intention was to give an example of why Venezuela would feel threatened by a greater U.S. military presence in Colombia. The main ways that we know the U.S. supported the coup are through its diplomatic recognition of the coup government and its funding of organizations that organized and promoted the coup. has published quite a bit about the U.S. support for the coup, so I did not think it was necessary to explain it fully in my article on Chavez's meeting with Samper. However, I could have included one additional sentence to explain the point, I think. Here's one of the many articles we have published on the topic: Again thank you for your thoughtful comment.    - James Suggett