Caracas, January 24, 2005—In a letter sent to South American nations yesterday, the United States called for these countries to pressure Venezuela for its alleged soft-stance on Colombian guerillas, according to a report in Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo on Sunday.
According to the Brazilian newspaper, the United States indicated its support for the Colombian administration in its deepening diplomatic crisis with Venezuela.
Tensions have been high between Venezuela and Colombia since mid-January when Colombia confirmed that Rodrigo Granda, the “Foreign Minister” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), was indeed kidnapped in Caracas on December 13th, as Venezuelan officials had initially claimed.
Since Colombia failed to issue a warrant for the extradition of Granda, the Venezuelan government has denounced these actions as a violation of international law, and a threat to Venezuelan sovereignty. In spite of this, US Ambassador to Colombia William Wood told reporters last week that “We support 100 percent the declarations from (Colombia's) presidential palace.”
The letter, issued by the US State Department, reportedly criticized Venezuelan officials for having distanced themselves from the fight against terrorism. “We are extremely worried about the position of the Venezuelan government and the possibility that this matter could escalate into a crisis,” reads one of the paragraphs of the letter.
Whitehouse spokesperson Adam Ereli repeated that sentiment in a statement to the press made earlier today. “I think that certainly we're looking carefully at what the Venezuelan Government does or does not do in response to the information provided,” said Ereli, referring to a list provided to Venezuelan officials by their Colombian counterparts identifying terrorists allegedly hiding in Venezuela. “And their actions in that regard will, I think, inform subsequent judgments and subsequent assessments,” by the United States, continued Ereli.
When questioned as to the degree and nature of US involvement in Granda’s “capture”, Ereli admitted that the US was involved, “to the extent that we help provide information and share information, yes.”
According to the text of the letter sent to Venezuela’s South American neighbors, in order to normalize relations with Colombia, Venezuela should adopt a “more conciliatory position in the matter.” It goes on to urge other South American nations to pressure Caracas to clarify its relations with Colombian guerrillas. “We call upon other countries to pressure the government of Venezuela to end relations with the FARC and with any other organization deemed to be of a terrorist nature by the United States, including the National Liberation Army (ELN) and the United Self Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).”
During a march ‘in defense of national sovereignty’ held yesterday on the 47th anniversary of the birth of Venezuelan democracy, Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel spoke in the east-side Caracas barrio of Petare.
Addressing thousands of red-clad protesters, Rangel fully rejected US intervention in Venezuelan-Colombian bi-lateral relations, declaring that this “meddling by the United States is unfortunate; instead of looking for solutions, they are adding to the fire.”
Rangel emphasized that “the fear is not terrorism, which is an important issue in both countries; however, of greater concern is national sovereignty.”
“This is a document that corresponds to Condoleezza Rice's style and is detached from the Latin American reality,” pointed out Rangel, referring to the US’ letter. “The United States does not have the authority to meddle in this matter,” he continued, “[the US] does it because they have a deliberate policy of aggression; I deplore that Colombia has not better defined its position from the position of the US.”