Chavez and Uribe to Meet February 15 to Settle Venezuela-Colombia Dispute

Presidents Chavez and Uribe will meet February 15 to settle the details on resolving the crisis that had developed with the kidnapping of Colombian guerrilla leader Granda on Venezuelan soil. The meeting had been postponed due to Uribe falling sick.

Caracas, February 10, 2005—Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will receive Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in the Miraflores Presidential Palace on the 15th of February to resolve the diplomatic crisis that has plagued the two nations since the kidnapping and capture of Colombian guerilla spokesperson Rodrigo Granda. The agenda for the meeting includes Chavez’s allegations that Colombia violated Venezuelan sovereignty and Colombian concerns that Venezuela is harboring Colombian guerillas. Originally scheduled for the 3rd of February, the meeting was postponed when Uribe suffered a viral infection and was hospitalized for 4 days in Cartagena de los Indias. 

According to the spokesman for the Uribe administration, Ricardo Galan, the two countries should resolve the dispute fairly quickly. “It will be a brief meeting.”  Colombian officials have also expressed hopes that economic relations between the two nations will resume in full swing.  It is expected that Chávez and Uribe will discuss topics such as trade, bilateral projects such as the construction of a 1,000 kilometer long (625 miles) gas pipeline that would connect the heart of Venezuela’s oil region, Maracaibo with the Colombian Pacific province of Chocó.

The two neighboring countries have been in diplomatic crisis since the “foreign relations minister” of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), Rodrigo Granda, was kidnapped in Caracas on the 13th of December, 2003.  Chávez recalled Venezuela’s ambassador to Colombia and suspended official relations because he said the bribes paid by Colombian officials to Venezuelan police forces for the abduction of the revolutionary were a violation of Venezuelan sovereignty and of international law. As tensions heightened, the Venezuelan President also demanded an apology from Uribe, an ultimatum which, according to Colombian Foreign Relations Minister, Carolina Barco, would remain unfulfilled.   

Although Uribe has continued to defend his government’s actions, his administration released a communiqué two weeks that promised to refrain from this type of unilateral action in the future, which Venezuelan officials interpreted as a step in the right direction.

Despite these concessions, each side remains hesitant. The spokesman for the Uribe administration, Ricardo Galan, has repeatedly emphasized the need for close, bilateral cooperation to defeat armed movements in the region.  “For Colombia, it is very important that Venezuela fights jointly against terrorism…It is very important that Venezuela makes a serious commitment,” said Galan.

Chávez has also expressed concern about Colombia’s current efforts to secure the 1,400 mile border between the two nations.  Currently, Venezuela has four times the number of Colombian soldiers stationed along the border. 

Foreign Relations Ministers, Ali Rodriguez of Venezuela and his Colombian counterpart, Carolina Barco, paved the way for the Chavez-Uribe meeting last January 27th, when they met in Lima, Peru for a meeting between Foreign Relations Ministers of the Andean Community of Nations (CAN). This will be the first face to face meeting between the two presidents since Chávez met with Uribe in Cartagena de los Indios in November, 2004.