Chavez Rejects U.S. Mediation in Venezuela-Colombia Spat, U.S. Withdrawal is “Only Solution”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that the only “practical solution” to tensions with neighbouring Colombia, which escalated as a result of an October 30 military pact between the U.S. and Colombian governments, is an “immediate” end to the deal.

President Hugo Chavez after voting in PSUV elections on Sunday (Juan Carlos Solorzano)

Caracas, November 16th, 2009 ( – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday that the only “practical solution” to tensions with neighbouring Colombia, which escalated as a result of an October 30 military pact between the U.S. and Colombian governments, is an “immediate” end to the deal.

The agreement, which allows U.S. military access to seven air, naval and army bases in Colombia and grants full immunity to U.S. personnel, is a “pact for war,” and will give the U.S. carte blanche to conduct military operations that could jeopardize the sovereignty and integrity of neighbouring countries, the Venezuelan president said.

Chavez was responding to comments by U.S. State Department Spokesperson Ian Kelly who said on Friday that the U.S. is disposed to mediate between Venezuela and Colombia to find “practical solutions” to the conflict.

Kelly’s proposal is another demonstration of Washington’s “cynicism,” Chavez told the press after exercising his right to vote in the elections of delegates to the second congress of his United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) in Caracas.

“The U.S. government is the champion of cynicism,” Chavez said, assuring that “Venezuela’s sovereignty is not up for discussion, nor will it be negotiated with any other country.”

“United States, if you want practical solutions, withdraw the Yankee bases in Colombia and free those fraternal people, free Colombia,” said Chavez.

U.S. and Colombian officials deny that Colombia will be used as a launch pad for military interventions in other South American countries, and say the agreement is designed to fight drug trafficking and fight left-wing guerrillas in the Andean nation.

However, this is contradicted by the 2010 fiscal year budget of the US Air Force Military Construction Program, which states that access to the Palanquero air base through the pact “provides a unique opportunity for full spectrum operations in a critical sub region of our hemisphere” and “supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent.”

Last week Chavez said that Venezuela, the largest oil producer in Latin America, would defend itself and its resources from the threat of a U.S. invasion from Colombian territory by reorganizing the armed forces and arming civil militias.

If Venezuelans “want peace, we must prepare for war…this will be the guarantee for peace,” he said.

Chavez also ordered an increased military presence in the border state of Tachira after two Venezuelan National Guard members were shot dead by armed gunmen at a checkpoint. The Venezuelan government said the killings were the work of Colombian paramilitaries.

Colombia in turn complained to the U.N. and the Organisation of American States alleging that Chavez’s comments amounted to “war threats.”

Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro responded that Colombia’s complaint to the U.N. is “immoral” and is aimed at diverting attention from its military deal with the U.S.

Chavez argued a dialogue with the government of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is “impossible…Never has a government, and there have been many right-wing governments in this continent over the centuries, sunk to such a level, as the government in Colombia…. it betrays its own people, the spirit of the people of Colombia and the peoples of South America.”

Chavez also dismissed Colombia’s claims that he is threatening war. “I’m not calling for any war. The gringo empire is calling for war. I’m calling for the defence of the sacred land that is Venezuela,” he said. “I’m obligated to call on all Venezuelans to prepare for combat to defend the homeland, if not, who will?”

Chavez also criticised what he described as the “despicable attitude” of right-wing opposition parties in Venezuela who have welcomed the installation of the U.S. bases, “because of their opposition to the Bolivarian Revolution they support the plans of aggression against this continent… They do not have the slightest dose of dignity or self respect.”

Venezuela is a country of peace, he reiterated. “We do not want wars, our wars are fighting are against hunger, against misery, against insecurity, crime, drug trafficking, these are our wars, a war for social justice, for life.”

Chavez also repeated his call for U.S. President Barack Obama to give back the Nobel Peace Prize, “out of dignity, decorum, respect,” because “he keeps sending more troops to Afghanistan and the war is spreading across this part of Eurasia, Pakistan, in Iraq they are still bombing children and entire families, and they are supporting the coup in Honduras.”

In a further response to Kelly, Chavez argued that the upcoming elections in Honduras are a “farce” designed to “legitimise” and “buy time” for the coup government, which ousted the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya on June 28.

“We support the elections process there,” Kelly said last week, referring to Honduras. “We have provided technical assistance. … These elections will be important to restoring Democratic and constitutional order in Honduras.”

“The U.S. is writing the script,” and pressuring other governments such as Panama to recognise the results, but Venezuela will not recognise any government in Honduras other than that of Manuel Zelaya, “the legitimate government of Honduras,” Chavez stated.