Caracas, February 04, 2005—Colombian President Alvaro Uribe cancelled a scheduled meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, yesterday, in what was initially reported as a case of food poisoning. Uribe and Venezuelan President Chávez had planned to meet to formalize a resolution to the diplomatic crisis that saw relations between the neighboring countries rapidly deteriorate last January. Venezuelan foreign minister Alí Rodríguez and Colombian foreign minister Carolina Barco reached a preliminary agreement last week in Peru, which both Presidents later commended. Chávez and Uribe were expected to sign the agreement yesterday, but Uribe cancelled his trip after reportedly being hospitalized.
Relations between Colombia and Venezuela soured last month over the alleged kidnapping of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) ‘foreign minister’ Rodrigo Granda in Caracas on December 13th, 2004. Venezuelan officials have accused the Colombian government of bribing Venezuelan police and national guardsmen to kidnap Granda and smuggle him across the border to Colombia. In early January Chávez recalled Venezuela’s ambassador to Colombia and froze trade with that country, demanding an apology from Uribe.
The United States has openly sided with Colombia, asking other South American nations to “pressure Venezuela to break all ties with the FARC.” The Venezuelan government denies that any such ties exist and has blamed FARC infiltration of the Venezuelan-Colombian frontier on poor border security on the Colombian side.
What was initially reported as stomach problems, possibly due to food poisoning, was diagnosed today as an ear infection. Uribe reportedly experienced nausea, vomiting and vertigo, causing doctors to prescribe four full days rest. Uribe has retired to the port town of Cartagena on Colombia’s Carribean coast, due to the possible complications that could result from returning to Bogotá’s 2600 meters above sea level. Uribe is expected to make a full recovery.
Earlier today, Colombian foreign minister Carolina Barco assured her Venezuelan counterpart Alí Rodríguez that “Uribe’s first visit [upon recovery] will be to Venezuela.” Barco said Uribe was suffering from an ear infection and had been forced to cancel planned trips to Spain and France as well as his meeting with Chávez. “The meeting with Chávez is our top priority,” Barco told Rodríguez, “we’re waiting on Chávez’ agenda to reschedule the meeting.”