BOGOTÁ, Colombia – Colombian Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyos, filed a complaint about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s interventionist policy and interference in Colombia’s internal affairs after Chavez threatened to export his political philosophy to Colombia “by whatever means necessary.”
Bogotá “rejects Chavez’s expansionist project in Colombia. Insults against honest Colombians cannot be tolerated,” announced Hoyos to AFP, discussing the official complaint filed with the international organization.
He was referring to comments made by Chavez on Aug. 23 during his “Aló Presidente” television program, criticizing his Colombian counterpart, Alvaro Uribe, for allowing U.S. forces to operate from Colombian bases. Chavez also said that he had ordered “investigations” into all Colombian companies in Venezuela, reported EFE, to prevent them from laundering drug trafficking money. Hoyos described Chavez’s remarks as “insulting, rude and an interference in Colombia’s internal politics.”
Colombia’s complaint comes just before a Union of South American Nations (Unasur) summit is held in Argentina, where presidents of the member countries plan to discuss the Colombia-U.S. joint defense agreement, which is opposed by Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermúdez told El Mercurio that the agreement allowing U.S. forces to share the use of seven Colombian military bases is an attempt to solve his country’s internal security problems. It is a cooperation agreement to defeat drug trafficking and terrorism…No part of Colombia will be occupied by a U.S. base,” he said, stressing that the bases would remain under Colombian control.
Uribe briefly visited seven South American countries in August to clarify the contents of the imminent agreement with Washington, which aimed, according to Reuters, to strengthen their joint effort against guerrillas and drug traffickers, and not to disrupt regional security. Uribe won backing for the agreement from Chile, Paraguay and Peru.
Alfredo Rangel, director of the Security and Democracy Foundation, told EFE that “the explanations the Colombian president provided [prior to the Unasur summit in Quito] on the scope, aims and operation of the cooperation agreement with the United States dispelled many concerns, which was reflected by no condemnation of the agreement.”
Since Uribe stripped Chavez of his powers to act as a mediator with the FARC guerillas in 2007, El País points out, diplomatic spats between Bogotá and Caracas have grown more frequent and more serious, culminating in Chavez’s recent decision to “freeze” relations with Colombia.