Former Colombian President Urges Venezuelan Opposition to Reject Chávez-Santos Rapprochement

Last Thursday, ex-Colombian president Alvaro Uribe urged the Venezuelan opposition to publically reject the burgeoning relationship between President Hugo Chávez and his Colombian counterpart, President Manuel Santos.


Caracas, November 27th 2011 ( – Last Thursday, ex-Colombian president Alvaro Uribe urged the Venezuelan opposition to publically reject the burgeoning relationship between President Hugo Chávez and his Colombian counterpart, President Manuel Santos.

In comments broadcast on Colombian television station CM&, the ex-president of Colombia’s Social Party of National Unity advised Venezuelan opposition candidates to take up the “challenge” of making a “public statement” with regards to what he described as the development of a worrying relationship between the two presidents.

“Chavismo is not going to believe in president Santos, because Chavismo, the Marxists, are very wise about knowing how to use people without believing in them, how to put their adversaries at the service of their cause, how to turn people into useful idiots for their own interests” said Uribe.

The former president of Colombia made the remarks during a meeting with various representatives of the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), Venezuela’s coalition of opposition parties poised to run against President Chavez in next year’s 2012 elections.

Several prominent members of the MUD bloc were in attendance at the meeting, including current Mayor of Caracas Antonio Ledezma, presidential hopeful Pablo Medina and the leader of the Social Democratic party, Eduardo Fernandez. According to Venezuelan news sources, the meeting was convened in order to discuss the opposition alliance’s primary elections scheduled for February next year.

Throughout the meeting Uribe expressed his “concern” for Colombia’s relationship with neighbouring Venezuela, and criticised Santos for allegedly having prioritised bilateral relations over democratic norms.

The ex-president also went on to suggest that the MUD coalition should publish a document officially denouncing Santos’ reconciliatory stance towards Chávez, ahead of the Colombian mandate’s arrival in Caracas this week for a series of regional summits.

“Why don’t you produce a manifesto in the days preceding the meeting saying this: ‘President Santos, we are worried, how can you prioritise 800 million dollars, or 400, over democratic values? Democratic values are priceless,” said Uribe.

Despite the former president’s comments, both Chávez and Santos have confirmed that they will sustain a presidential meeting in Caracas on Monday as previously planned.

“Just as President Juan Manuel Santos said, we are not going to let ourselves get derailed… We are going to maintain political rationality,” said president Chávez, who also criticised Uribe for wanting to convert Colombia “into the Israel of Latin America”, referring to the former president’s close relationship to Washington.

In 2009, Venezuela officially broke relations with Colombia following allegations made by Uribe that Colombian rebel groups were being sheltered in Venezuela territory. Relations between the two countries were re-established with the election of current president Manuel Santos in 2010.

During his time as president, Uribe made the issue of security central to his domestic policy, vowing to take on the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and stem the Colombian drug trade. As well as undertaking an extensive demobilisation of the country’s paramilitary forces, Uribe was also a staunch defender of the US sponsored Plan Colombia – a military programme involving the extensive aerial fumigation of land worked by the nation’s poorest peasants.

Many of Uribe’s policies have drawn harsh criticism from various human rights groups, who have charged him with adopting a permissive stance with regard to massive human rights violations committed by paramilitary organisations. International solidarity groups also accuse Uribe of provoking a mass exodus of thousands of poor Colombian peasants into neighbouring Ecuador and Venezuela as a consequence of Plan Colombia and of using the Colombian army to violently repress political dissent. Earlier this year, a mass grave was found in the Meta region of Colombia, containing the bodies of up to 2,000 people.

Whilst continuing to implement Uribe’s hard line against the FARC since his election in 2010, Santos has adopted a noticeably different stance with regard to foreign policy, aimed at integrating Colombia into regional organisations and re-establishing bilateral relations with other Latin American countries.