Colombia-Venezuela Business Deals Put On Hold Over Kidnapping

Chavez announced that Colombian-Venezuelan business deals would be put on hold as long as the Colombian government does not apologize and "rectify" for the kidnapping of a FARC leader on Venezuelan territory last December.

Caracas, January 14, 2005—Amidst escalating tensions between Colombia and Venezuela over the recent abduction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) foreign minister, Ricardo Granda, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Colombia, Carlos Santiago Ramirez, was called back to Caracas yesterday, for “consultation.” Also, President Chavez, during his annual report to the National Assembly, announced that bilateral business deals, such as the Venezuela-Colombia gas pipeline, would be put on hold as long as the Colombian government does not apologize for its actions in the kidnapping.

Consultation is a step below an official protest between governments.  Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel noted, “For now, our ambassador, Gen. Carlos Santiago Ramirez was called back,” deeming that Colombia’s actions “constitute a crime that could have international implications.” He went on to criticize the Colombian government for “committing a huge mistake by legitimizing these criminal acts,” adding “This is bringing back the law of the jungle in the Andes.”

In a statement was released by Chacón yesterday, five members of Venezuela’s National Guard’s Anti-kidnapping Force (GAES) have been detained in relation with the kidnapping, as well as three police officers. He went on to allege that at least one member of the Colombian police force was directly involved.  The kidnapping “was planned some time ago from Colombia, by Colombian authorities”, adding that the Colombians crossed the Venezuelan border ahead of time to coordinate the abduction. 

The recall of the Venezuelan ambassador follows a statement released on January 12th by Colombia’s Defense Minister, Jorge Alberto Uribe, in which he retracted his prior position that Granda was captured in Cúcuta, Colombia, on December 15th, 2004 and confirmed that the high-ranking FARC member was indeed apprehended in Caracas two days prior.

Chavez speaking in the National Assembly during his annual address to the nation.
Credit: Wendy Olivo, Venpres

Chavez, in his speech to the National Assembly, said, “With much pain I have withdrawn the Venezuelan ambassador in Bogotá and the ambassador will not return as long as the Colombian government does not apologize and rectify what it has done.” Chavez also explained that he sees himself “obligated” to suspend bilateral business deals. “It cannot be. It is unjustifiable from any point of view that high officials of the Colombian state are instigating Venezuelan officials to break the law,” said Chavez, adding, “they are buying Venezuelan military personnel who betray their homeland and these will be punished with the full weight of the law.”

“This definitely signifies a violation of the sovereignty of the Venezuelan state, which we categorically reject,” said Venezuelan Minister of the Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacón in a press conference. “Colombia’s government, or at least Colombia’s national police, planned this.”

Granda was kidnapped in Caracas on the 13th of December around 4 in the afternoon by a Special Task Force of the Venezuelan National Guard that was closely cooperating with the Colombian National Police. After the kidnapping, Granda was in to Captain Francisco Antonio Rojas Bejarano of the Colombian police, on the morning of December 14th in Cúcuta, Colombia. 

Although Chacón admitted that the Venezuelan investigation has not yet identified the Colombian police involved in the incident, he informed the Colombian Minister of Defense, Jorge Alberto Uribe, that there was proof linking the Colombian police to the kidnapping of Granda.

Chacón went on to emphasize that Granda was not wanted by the Colombian government nor any other government until January 9, 2005, in order words, 25 days after his capture in Bellas Artes, Caracas. For the Minister, this procedure is ironic. “I do not understand why they are making the request for his arrest since they have already detained him.”