Mérida, 22nd May 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered extra troops to the Colombian border yesterday amid reports that Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas may have crossed into Venezuela after attacking the Colombian army.
The ambush against the Colombian army post in La Guajira department near the border with Venezuela left 12 soldiers dead and 4 wounded.
In a telephone call played through state channel VTV Chavez told the nation that two Venezuelan army brigades and an air patrol were scanning the border area to prevent any FARC guerrillas from entering Venezuelan territory.
“We’re not going to permit irregular groups of any stripe to use Venezuela as a place to camp, train or attack forces of other countries, in this case Colombia,” he said.
The Venezuelan head of state confirmed he had spoken with his Colombian counterpart Juan Manuel Santos about the incident, who informed him that the FARC rebels may have crossed over into Venezuela to seek refuge.
Chavez further reiterated his government’s position that “we don’t support guerrillas,” and said, “We’re not going to allow a conflict that isn’t ours to intrude on Venezuelan territory”.
The incident comes days after Colombian ex-president Alvaro Uribe launched another attack against President Chavez and his government, accusing Venezuela of being a refuge for FARC leaders.
The conservative and staunch opponent to Chavez claimed, “The great sponsor of the terrorism affecting Colombia is the Venezuelan dictatorship”.
Speaking during a press conference in Miami, Uribe also criticised the government of his successor Juan Manual Santos, saying, “Instead of combating terrorism with full determination, it’s seeking mediation from the Venezuelan government…to negotiate with terrorism [the FARC]”.
Colombia, the Unites States and the European Union consider the FARC a terrorist organisation, while many Latin American countries do not define the guerrillas with this term.
Speaking yesterday, Chavez poured scorn on Uribe’s attacks. “I’m not going to answer the words of a man who put the peace of the region in danger,” he said.
In March 2008, during Uribe’s presidency, the Colombian army launched at attack into Ecuadorian territory, killing 25 people including FARC second in command Raul Reyes. The Organisation of American States (OAS) released a statement “rejecting” Colombia’s actions.
Uribe was recently linked to a 2004 plot by Venezuelan right-wing opposition activists who planned to use Colombian paramilitaries to assassinate Hugo Chavez. “Alvaro Uribe surely had his hands involved in this operation,” stated the head of Venezuela’s National Intelligence Service (Sebin) Miguel Rodriguez while speaking on private Venezuelan channel Televen earlier this month.
When Santos, who served as defence minister in Uribe’s government, replaced Uribe as Colombian president in August 2010 relations between Venezuela and Colombia were re-established and have since improved markedly.
President Chavez yesterday emphasised, “Our current relations with the Colombian government are of respect.” “I prefer focusing my attention on a constructive and positive relationship with Colombia,” he continued.
He said that Venezuela has only ever been involved in Colombian affairs “at the request” of the Colombian government, adding, “If we can be useful for a peace process in Colombia then we are at their service, but not for war”.
In 2008 and 2010 Chavez was involved in facilitating successful negotiations to release hostages held by the FARC.