WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S.A. – As the first 24 of the 72 hours the Venezuelan government gave Colombian diplomats to leave the country passed, border crossing points between Venezuela and Colombia were open and active a day after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez severed diplomatic ties with Colombia.
The Venezuelan president said the “permanent aggressions and multiple disrespectful statements against Venezuela from Colombia’s government” were the reasons he ended the countries’ relationship. He referenced the evidence presented by Álvaro Uribe’s administration at the Organization of American States (OAS) of the presence of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in Venezuela.
“Due to these aggressions we have no other choice but, for dignity, to totally break our relations with our brother nation of Colombia,” said Chávez, flanked by Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, in Caracas.
Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos lamented the severing of relations by Venezuela.
“The ironic thing is that the Venezuelan government breaks ties with Colombia and not with the FARC, which is what it should have done,” Santos said.
At the OAS session July 22, Colombian Ambassador Luis Hoyos presented videos, maps and satellite images of alleged FARC and ELN camps in Venezuelan territory. Chávez said the allegations were “an aggression” by the Colombian government.
Venezuelan opposition leaders and businessmen denounced the breaking of relations with Colombia.
“Chávez has a military mind,” said Julio Borges, leader of opposition party Primero Justicia. “He needs an enemy, and if it doesn’t exist, he creates one.”
Noel Álvarez, president of the Venezuelan union of chambers of commerce, FEDECÁMARAS, asked for “moderation” in the relationship between Colombia and Venezuela.
“The ideological confrontation between the presidents [of Venezuela and Colombia] has hurt us, especially as a nation, because the governments defend their politics, but who really suffers is the citizenry,” Álvarez said.
José Rozo, head of the FEDECÁMARAS branch in the Venezuelan state of Táchira, which borders Colombia, worries about how Chávez‘s decision will impact the region.
The Venezuelan government froze commercial ties with Colombia in July 2009.
“The damage done to the economy of the border area can’t be forgiven,” said Rozo, as quoted by EFE. “Thousands of jobs are being lost.”
The Colombian government said it is pondering bringing its case before the International Court of Justice, Colombian Attorney General Guillermo Mendoza Diago said.
“If the court attorney, after we present our well-documented case, establishes that Venezuelan authorities participated in these [violent] attacks [on Colombia by terrorists based in Venezuela], [the ICF] may respond to that with justice,” he said.