Mérida, August 2nd 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In response to the detection of increased Colombian military aircraft near the border with Venezuela, Venezuela created ten special military zones along its border to defend against any potential armed aggression.
“It is with much concern that we have detected that the presence of aircraft flying at either high or low altitude on the border with Colombia has increased by more than 100%,” Chavez announced on Friday.
The flights were detected on the Colombian side of the border in the zones of La Guajira, La Fria, and Alto Apure, as well as in areas near Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire in the Caribbean, the president said. The flight patterns indicated the that the aircraft were possibly carrying out spy missions rather than following direct routes, he added.
In response, Venezuela will deploy troops in military “districts” that operate together to form “integral defense zones” along its 1,400 mile (2,250 km) border with Colombia. The special zones, created by presidential order, have an exclusively defensive purpose, consistent with the Law of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, which was passed last year.
The Venezuelan military has been on alert since July 22 when Colombia brought accusations before the Organization of American States (OAS) that Venezuela tolerates the presence of Colombian guerrillas in its territory.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, an opponent of United States imperialism and victim of a US-backed military coup attempt in 2002, severed diplomatic relations with Colombia, saying the accusations were aimed at setting the basis for a future military intervention by Colombian forces, with the support of the billions of dollars in military aid that the US government provides to its primary South American ally.
Chavez reiterated this interpretation of events on Friday. “The strategy of the Yankee Empire [the US] for which Colombia serves as a player, is for the war [in Colombia] to be internationalized, in order to later have the excuse to intervene in Venezuela,” he said, referring to the civil war between the Colombian government and guerrilla insurgents that has raged since the 1960s.
As a result of Colombia’s war, Venezuela has been victim to the presence of paramilitary squads linked to the Colombian government, increased drug trafficking carried out by the paramilitaries as well as the insurgents, and the influx of an estimated 4.5 million Colombians fleeing the violence.
In official statements, Colombia denied that it has plans to attack Venezuela and said its aircraft have remained in Colombian territory.
“Colombia has never thought of attacking the fraternal people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” a press release from the Colombian Office of the President stated. A Foreign Relations Ministry statement, released separately, said, “Based on precise information provided by the Ministry for National Defense, no Colombian military helicopter or aircraft has flown over Venezuelan air space.”
Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro made a public plea for Colombia to hold true to its statements, saying the Colombian government “gave a guarantee with its word, which we hope will be a reality.”
Colombia has long claimed its military objectives are geared exclusively toward combating drug trafficking and guerrilla rebels within its territory. However, the Colombian military’s unannounced attack on a guerrilla camp within Ecuadoran territory in 2008 raised suspicions and garnered widespread criticism from other South American nations.
Last October, Colombia signed a military deal with the US to allow the US to increase its troop presence on seven Colombian bases and to step up espionage and military operations across the South American continent, according to official US Air Force documents.
Last week, the Colombian military installed a new air base in the Casanare province. The base will host aircraft that will carry out transport, intelligence, and combat missions in Casanare as well as Arauca province, which borders Venezuela’s Apure state, according to an official statement of the Colombian Armed Forces.
Last year, Colombia increased its military expenditure by 11% and its military spending as a percentage of GDP was the greatest in the region. Venezuela reduced its military spending by 25% last year, and occupied fifth place in the region in military spending as a percentage of GDP, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
President Chavez said the intention of Venezuela’s recent troop deployments has been “to speed up and boost political, economic, social, intelligence and military measures throughout the length and breadth of the borderline, which has always been violated by foreign and violent groups.”
In his Sunday opinion column that is published in several national newspapers, Chavez wrote that his administration has “one supreme objective: to detain the war-mongering craziness that has taken power in the Nariño House [the Colombian presidential building].”
Chavez reiterated his call for the insurgents in Colombia to seek a peace accord, and said the current situation consists of a “polarity: good sense and prudent policies versus irrationality and militarist violence.”
On Thursday and over the weekend, many news sources reported that the FARC, the largest guerrilla group in Colombia, said it was willing to talk to the incoming president, Juan Santos. FARC leader, Alfonso Cano, said the group was willing to look for a political solution. A spokesperson for Santos said the government was prepared to talk to the FARC, on the condition that they lay down arms and release all hostages.
“The dilemma is between words and missiles, that is to say, between bringing the voluntary exercise of peace to the dialogue table of the peoples of the South, or maintaining an environment of confrontation in the region with an elevated danger of war,” Chavez wrote.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) held an emergency summit of foreign relations ministers last Thursday to seek a solution to the conflict, but no consensus was reached. Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa, whose country currently holds the interim presidency of the two-year-old integration bloc, called for a presidential summit in the coming weeks to address the matter.