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.