Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro on Thursday announced Venezuela is suspending land, air and sea trade with Colombia after the country’s President Hugo Chavez announced he wishes to break all diplomatic ties.
The Venezuelan government has closed the Colombian embassy in Caracas and given diplomatic staff 72 hours to leave the country.
Earlier on Thursday, Chavez declared he was severing all ties with Colombia “out of dignity,” following the neighboring country’s allegations before the Organization of American States (OAS) that it had evidence of 87 FARC and ELN guerrilla camps in Venezuelan territory.
“We are evaluating economic, air and naval trade as well as further measures. We call on Venezuela’s citizens to support their country” Maduro said.
On Thursday Colombian ambassador to the OAS Luis Alfonso Hoyos presented satellite photographs, map co-ordinates, and videos to the organization’s Permanent Council as evidence of “consolidated active and growing presence of these terrorist bands in the brother country of Venezuela.”
The Venezuelan government has always vehemently denied allegations that rebels are hiding in its territory and has denounced Colombia’s decision to publicly present the evidence as “a pathetic media show.”
At a press conference, Maduro branded the Washington-based body a “fourth-rate program” and asked why it permitted Colombia to go on with its “gross show” of attacking Venezuela. He also dismissed calls for co-operation from Colombian OAS representative Luis Alfonso Hoyos, saying “everyone knows that this man comes from the deepest hole of corruption in Colombia.”
OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has called on both nations to “calm their spirits” and “find a way” to overcome the crisis in their relationship.
He said the support of the OAS was always on offer, but that mediation should never be imposed on countries.
Venezuela’s borders are reportedly now on “maximum alert” after President Chavez expressed fear that President Uribe’s “hatred of Venezuela” would drive him to take military action. The Venezuelan leader has repeatedly voiced his conviction that the allegations are a last ditch attempt by the outgoing president to sabotage the incoming Colombian government’s relations with Venezuela.
“Uribe is capable of ordering that a fake camp be built on the Venezuelan side to attack it and cause a war” Chavez said.
However, the Venezuelan leader also warned “we would go crying to a war with Colombia, but we would go.”
Venezuela first froze diplomatic relations in 2009, after Colombia signed an agreement granting the U.S. military access to seven Colombian army bases. Chavez has consistently expressed his belief that the pact is an attempt to undermine regional sovereignty.
Outgoing president Uribe has yet to comment on the situation, but an official announcement from his press secretary Cesar Mauricio Velasquez stated that Colombia’s response to the break in relations will be made clear by the actions of OAS ambassador Hoyos before the organization.
Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos would not respond to the latest developments in the diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Before Colombia announced it had proof of guerrilla presence in Venezuela, Chavez had taken steps towards repairing diplomatic ties and the leader has not dismissed the possibility of reconciliation Juan Manuel Santos’ administration takes office.
“I hope that after August 7 meetings between foreign ministers can start” said Chavez.