Chávez freezes diplomatic relations with Colombia

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announces the recall of his ambassador to Colombia and the suspension of diplomatic and commercial relations with its neighbor.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez announces the recall of his ambassador to Colombia and the suspension of diplomatic and commercial relations with its neighbor.

Fernando Sánchez

BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ordered the recall of his ambassador to Colombia, Gustavo Márquez, and froze diplomatic and commercial relations with that country after the Bogotá government denounced on July 27 an alleged diversion of Venezuelan arms to the guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Chávez called the accusations of his Colombian counterpart Álvaro Uribe “irresponsible.” According to DPA, in response, Uribe insisted that Caracas explain how three rocket launchers which Sweden sold to Venezuela in 1988 fell into the FARC’s hands.

The tension between the two countries exploded after the Swedish government confirmed information from Colombian Law Enforcement sources saying that in October 2008, it found the Swedish-made rocket launchers in a FARC camp. According to El Tiempo, the Swedish government also asked Venezuela for an explanation.

In response, Chávez said, “If we are subject to any more attacks [from Bogotá] we will totally cut off economic relations,” and he threatened to expropriate Colombian companies in Venezuela.

The Uribe administration said that, during a June meeting in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, the Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jaime Bermúdez, gave his Venezuelan counterpart Nicolás Maduro “a document proving that the FARC was in possession of those rocket launchers,” El Universal reported. In spite of that, he said, “Venezuela has offered no response.” But the Venezuelan ambassador denied that his government had received such a document.

In an attempt to cool things off, the Organization of American States and Brazil issued statements calling for calm. Secretary General of the OAS José Miguel Insulza said that he is prepared to mediate between the neighboring countries. “We are prepared to use our good offices if asked,” Insulza said, according to BBC Mundo. Similarly, Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim said, according to EFE, that Brazil is prepared to work to “restore” trust between Caracas and Bogotá.

The last diplomatic crisis between Venezuela and Colombia occurred in March 2008, BBC Mundo recalled. On that occasion, Chávez cut off relations after the Colombian Air Force bombed a FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory and presented information allegedly taken from a computer of the deceased “number two” guerrilla, “Raúl Reyes,” pointing to alleged ties between Venezuela and the armed group.

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  • | 2009-08-07

    This is a delicate issue and decision!! I think the Colombian goivernment should consider this to be a sovereign decision, but they should also take into account U.S. interest in oil and the Venezuelan Amazon, As a Venezuelan, I'm worried that this could turn into a war!! and with Venezuela involved, the ALBA countries will get involved too.

  • | 2009-08-06

    Many Colombians in Colombia and abroad supported and encouraged Commander Chávez when he started his supposed social reforms which were going to improve the lives of Venezuelans 10 years ago. Experience tells us that if results are not seen in that period of time, the project has failed. On the contrary, we have seen an unpredictable, extravagant, jovial, reckless leader confused over the interpretation of common Bolivarian history, unskilled in international relations, poorly advised by his circle of advisors, an expert in assymetric warfare, unwittingly I am sure. Hugo is a special individual, he can really make you feel good despite difficult circumstances, look at his performance in Santo Domingo and at the same time he can surprise you with his irrationality and unpredictability or his magnanimity. We wish our Venezuelan brothers the best and hope to continue with our social program in Colombia without ignorant interference.

  • | 2009-08-05

    I like reading these comments and they are very good, but they are not always true and try to put the blame on Chavez. They forget they are talking about the President of all Venezuelans and like it or not he deserves respect for his position. As Venezuelans we must defend our country through the president we voted for and if he hadn't said anything he would have been criticized for being too tolerant. This is not a good way of practising opposition.

  • | 2009-08-02

    I think that Colombia, like any other country, must firmly stand against serious terrorist threats especially from the FARC. Most importantly Chavez must not be allowed to take center-stage. Let Chavez sort out his own problems at home which is going to be difficult enough for this repressive coup-mongering censorer who only believes in his own personality and his Americanist fairy tale.

  • | 2009-08-02

    It seems to me that Mr Chavez is too much involved with the FARC guerrillas and he can't justify it by breaking off relations with Colombia.