“I can confirm that it is our greatest intention to return to calm and normal commercial, political and social policies between the two republics [Colombia and Venezuela],” Chavez announced at a press conference following the close of the two day Rio Group Summit in Mexico.
“There needs to be a full restitution of respect and confidence… We respect Colombia and we want to start working with the Colombian government again,” the socialist leader added.
“If Uribe needs to sell more Colombia products to Venezuela, we are prepared to evaluate it, but with respect. It’s not as if someone holds a pistol to my head and says ‘buy these things or I’ll accuse you of placing an embargo against me,” Chavez continued.
Chavez said his showdown with Uribe was “regrettable” but took umbrage that the Colombian president had accused him of a trade embargo.
The Venezuelan president commented that he thought a comparison to the U.S.’s trade embargo on Cuba was “absurd” and added that trade between his nation and Colombia had gone from $1 billion to $7 billion under his leadership.
Chavez finished by saying that “if this argument served as a form of catharsis for President Uribe – he may be under a lot of pressure – then he’s welcome”.
“‘Be a man! These issues are meant to be discussed in these venues. You’re brave speaking at a distance, but a coward when it comes to talking face to face,” Uribe said to Chavez Monday, after the socialist leader threatened to walk out on the summit because Uribe questioned him about his trade policies.
Diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela were frozen after Colombia signed an agreement last year with the U.S. that allows the Americans to use Colombian military bases and civilian airports for counternarcotics and counterterrorism missions.
Chavez believes the agreement undermines sovereignty in the region and is its most outspoken opponent.
The border region has long been a source of tension between the countries, as Venezuela accuses Colombia of allowing right-wing paramilitary fighters to enter Venezuelan territory, while Colombia says the border is often crossed by left-wing guerrillas seeking refuge in the neighboring country.
Frozen diplomatic relations have adversely affected the Colombian economy, with exports to Venezuela down 79% in December 2009.