Merida, July 30th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – An extraordinary meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) yesterday, requested by Venezuela to address the developing tensions between it and Colombia, ended with only vague commitments to peace. Venezuelan government officials and movement leaders consider the moves by Colombia part of U.S aggression and have expressed concerns about the possibility of military action by Colombia.
UNASUR extraordinary meeting has ambiguous outcomes
After the Alvaro Uribe government of Colombia went to the Organisation of American States (OAS) last week to complain about Venezuela’s alleged protection of Colombian guerrillas within its borders, Venezuela requested a meeting of UNASUR to discuss what it felt were aggressions by Colombia.
UNASUR is a recently formed regional integration forum which often addresses sensitive regional issues, and which, unlike the OAS, does not involve the United States.
The extraordinary meeting yesterday involved foreign ministers and vice ministers from Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Perú, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, and Paraguay. Only Guayana sent its apologies. The meeting took place in Quito, Ecuador, lasted five hours, and was closed to the press.
Ricardo Patino, the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister, and filling in for Rafael Correa as temporary UNASUR president, said in a press conference after the meeting that it had agreed to a “commitment to the construction of conditions for peace, harmony, and that cooperation in the region is maintained.”
However, the meeting had ended “without consensus” and they didn’t “arrive at a final resolution” because this would have implied a much longer meeting, with “hours addressing each point,” Patino said.
During the meeting the Brazilian government proposed five points, which stipulated that both Venezuela and Colombia commit to resolve their differences using “peaceful means”, and that both countries fight against illegally armed groups, in particular those linked to drug smuggling.
The proposal also suggested that each country not make “public declarations that aggravate the situation” and that they send their proposals to the provisional president of UNASUR in order that they are considered in the next meeting.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said one of the central themes of the UNASUR extraordinary meeting was Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s plan to “militarily assault Venezuela” before 7 August, when president elect Juan Santos will take power.
“We mentioned this in a number of interventions. And every time we demanded that [Colombian] Foreign Minister Bermudez respond, he wouldn’t, to the point where in the last intervention, he demanded the right to speak. And... he gave his word, which we hope will be the reality,” Maduro told press after the meeting yesterday.
Maduro also said that during the closed debate, Bermudez seemed “to despair” and be “uncomfortable” in the face of constant proposals for peace.
“The aim was to put the proposal of peace on the table, something which made minister Bermudez very nervous... it was like showing the crucifix to someone possessed by the devil.”
Maduro said the most important thing was re-taking the path to peace, “in South America and particularly in Colombia, where for over sixty years the people have been subject to a civil war.”
During the meeting Maduro said he had emphasised the internal conflict in Colombia and the massacre of La Macarena there, where the local population denounced a mass and secret cemetery located close to a military base. Bermudez, however, according to Maduro, basically repeated Colombia’s presentation to the OAS.
In the press today Bermudez accused Venezuela of boycotting the final declaration, “We achieved a declaration practically agreed upon by everyone” but, apparently, “at the last minute Venezuela backed down when all the foreign ministers had already decided on the official position.”
Bermudez reiterated Colombia’s position, which is not seeking mediation, but rather an “efficient mechanism to impede” Colombia’s guerrillas seeking refuge in Venezuela, Noticia al Dia reported.
Maduro, however, told press that Venezuela did not vote against the final resolution, and said Bermudez was lying. He added that Venezuela’s main aim at the meeting was not the signing of a final declaration, but opening the way towards dialogue.
He also said that soon, Venezuela would release a report analysing the supposed evidence presented by the Uribe government to the OAS.
“The information that [the Uribe government] gave our government has been checked and in the right moment, professionally, the results will be released,” Maduro said. He added that the supposed evidence was a “show” but reiterated the Venezuelan government’s willingness to fight any “irregular” groups in its borders.
Finally, while Patino said he thought it was a “step forward” that both Venezuela and Colombia attended the meeting, the various foreign ministers of UNASUR requested a formal meeting of the heads of state of their countries. This next meeting will be based around Brazil’s proposal, which apart from its five points, also declares South America a “peace zone”.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva also announced he would travel to Caracas and Bogota on 6 August for talks with Chavez and Uribe as well as with Juan Santos, who takes office the next day. However, Uribe complained that Lula was "ignoring the threat for Colombia and the continent that the presence of FARC terrorists in (Venezuela) represents.”
A U.S-Colombia coordinated effort to destabilise the region
A range of Venezuelan politicians have told Venezuelan state media that they see the tensions and debate with Colombia as part of a larger U.S plan to dominate the region and to attack the Venezuelan revolution.
On Sunday President Chavez suspended a trip to Cuba because he considered the possibility of “armed aggression” against Venezuela by Colombia and coordinated by the United States, to be high. He warned that should this occur, he would suspend Venezuela’s supply of oil to the United States, "even if it meant we had to eat rocks”.
Chavez said the possibility of such aggression had “never been higher in the last 100 years”.
Maduro agreed, and argued that the attacks by the outgoing Colombian government form part of a regional process of destabilisation driven by the United States. “All the lies and manipulations ...form part of preparing for a process of regional destabilisation,” he said.
“The Colombian government is obsessed with war,” Maduro added.
Ex Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia, Pavel Rondon, speaking on Venezelan Television (VTV), said that U.S president Barack Obama was “trying to re-conquer Latin America with the politics he’s applying in the region.”
Obama’s administration aims to “isolate, and at some time overthrow [the Bolivarian government], like they did to the Chavez in the April 2002 [coup].”
U.S government policy aims to create, “an international atmosphere that ultimately seeks to develop a confrontation in Latin America, and that’s where Colombia has played a predominant role,” Rondon said.
Ramon Rodriguez, PSUV leader and someone who has also functioned as mediator in FARC hostage situations, referred to the “latest tactical movements of imperialist capitalism: military bases in Colombia... violations of our air space from the tactical bases in Aruba and Curazao, positioning an expeditionary landing force in Costa Rica, verbal attacks...by the Catholic church that prepare the terrain by trying to discredit our process, attempts by the right wing Chilean parliament to stain our institutions, a thwarted attempt by the CIA to infiltrate a terrorist of the calibre of Chavez Abarca, unfounded denunciations by the Colombian oligarchy... are recent activities by... neoliberal capitalism that form an imminent violent threat to our process.”
Rodriguez concluded that an invasion of Venezuela would be almost “simultaneous with an attack on North Korea or Iran” and that Venezuelans need to start organising and mobilising to defend “the sovereignty of our homeland.”
The Venezuelan ambassador to the U.S, Bernardo Alvarez, said he was worried about a military attack of Venezuela by the Colombian government, also agreeing that such actions would be orchestrated by the U.S.
He argued that the “evidence” presented by Colombia to the OAS was just a “way of criminalising [Venezuela], of justifying the aggression” and the actions by the outgoing Colombian government were aimed at making a close relationship with the incoming government difficult, as they happened just at the time when “everyone was waiting for the opportunity for better relations”.
Alvarez said that therefore, “Venezuela is on alert; because anything could happen... at least until the new Colombian government arrives.” Consequently, he said all entities in Venezuela were taking the necessary precautions.
Earlier this week opposition leader Manuel Rosales who is currently in Peru avoiding an arrest warrant, expressed his support for Uribe’s attacks, AVN reported.
Venezuela committed to fighting organised crime
Maduro also stressed that Venezuela was in fact committed to fighting “irregular” groups and “organised crime” and that so far the Bolivarian government had captured 49 drug trafficking leaders.
He also pointed out that Chavez had publically offered a number of times to mediate between the two sides of the armed conflict in Colombia and had promoted a “humanitarian accord” of prisoner exchange between the Colombian government and the guerrillas.
Meanwhile, the Uribe government has “exported” its conflict, evidenced by the increased paramilitary actions outside its borders, especially in Venezuela, Maduro said.
Finally, he noted that the Colombian government didn’t hesitate to bomb and raid other countries in the name of the fight against terrorism, specifically in Ecuador in March 2008, when it claimed there were guerrilla camps in Ecuadorian territory, near its border with Colombia.
Tachira state police captured the paramilitary leader “Sandra” Barrero Cardozo and five other paramiliatries, on Wednesday near the Colombian border, the police told press. Cardozo supposedly formed part of a gang dedicated to extortion and hired killings, and was wanted for the death of two Venezuelans; Mayor Giovanni Alvarez, and body guard Willington Vivas.
International and local solidarity with Venezuela strengthens
In addition to a multitude of international and national movement and institutional statements made in support of Venezuela last week, yesterday there were marches across Venezuela, and Maduro has called for a continental movement against U.S imperialism.
In Merida yesterday hundreds marched against imperialism and in support of the measures taken by Chavez in the face of the attacks by Uribe. In Barinas state, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) press reported a “massive” march of thousands, for the same cause. There was also a concentration in Ciudad Bolivar by Colombian citizens to manifest their support for Chavez’s decision.
Hundreds of rural movement representatives who work on 84 recovered estates in Yaracuy state also marched and chanted against Uribe’s war policies and this morning hundreds of PSUV members marched on Margarita Island.
At an international level, the Sao Paulo Forum, a conference of over 80 left political parties from Latin America, expressed its solidarity with Venezuela, as did the World Peace Council, the Chilean Solidarity Movement, and the Association of Refugees of Latin America and the Caribbean.
In Buenos Aires, twenty cultural, social, and human rights organisations plan to march on the Colombian embassy today, and on the U.S embassy next week.
Venezuela’s culture minister, Farruco Sesto, also announced that artists and intellectuals in Venezuela and worldwide, have manifested their support for Chavez’s measures. “Statements from poets, intellectuals, and theatre and cinema actors are arriving,” he said.
Maduro said the government had received letters from many social and political movements from around the Latin American continent, so that on Thursday he proposed a big continent wide campaign against war, U.S interventionism, and the threats of war.
The Syrian vice Foreign Minister also expressed his country’s solidarity with Venezuela and its “rejection of any action that goes against the stability of Venezuelan territory.”
The Venezuelan government severed diplomatic relations with Colombia last Thursday, following accusations by that country in the OAS that Venezuela was protecting Colombian guerrillas.
The accusations came almost exactly two months before Venezuela is due to hold its parliamentary elections, and just two weeks before Colombia’s new president will take office.
They also follow years of growing verbal attacks and lies by Colombian and U.S government spokespeople, as well as private media, against Venezuela.
In March 2008 Caracas sent troops to its border after Colombia raided Ecuador to kill guerrillas. Then in July that year Venezuela and Colombia resumed relations after the release of FARC hostage Ingred Betancourt.
Venezuela again broke off ties mid last year with Colombia after a Colombia-US deal regarding the use of Colombian military bases. Following this, UNASUR met in November to discuss the rupture. Participating countries agreed on a “war free continent” but Bermudez and Colombian Defence Minister Gabriel Silver both refused to attend, sending low level officials instead.