Chávez said he would not permit Colombia’s U.S.-backed government to establish an American military base in La Guajira, a region spanning northeastern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela.The Venezuelan leader said if Colombia allows the base, his government will revive a decades-old territorial conflict and stake a claim to the entire region.”We will not allow the Colombian government to give La Guajira to the empire,” Chávez said, referring to the U.S. during a speech to a packed auditorium of uniformed soldiers. “Colombia is launching a threat of war at us.”He said Washington’s top diplomat in Bogota, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield, recently suggested that a U.S. military base in Ecuador could be moved to La Guajira.Chávez urged his Colombian counterpart, Álvaro Uribe, to “think it over well” before making such a decision because Venezuela will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that a U.S. military base is not built on the peninsula in the Caribbean Sea.Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa — a close Chávez ally — has repeatedly said that he will not renew a 10-year lease on the base in the Pacific port of Manta when it expires next year.Manta is the United States’ only military base in South America. Surveillance flights the U.S. runs from there are responsible for about 60 percent of drug interdiction in the eastern Pacific.Diplomatic relations between Caracas and Bogotá have been rocky for months. They worsened last week when Colombia unveiled documents allegedly showing that Chavez sought to arm and finance Colombian rebels. Chávez denies the claim.Colombian officials say they found the documents in laptops recovered after a March 1 cross-border raid in Ecuador that killed rebel leader Raúl Reyes and 24 other people.International police agency Interpol is analyzing the documents and plans to present its findings on Thursday in Bogotá.”The Colombian government will surely announce tomorrow that the documents retrieved from Raul Reyes’ computer are authentic and, therefore, Chávez supports terrorism,” Chávez said.Chávez — an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy in Latin America — said Washington is using Uribe as pawn in a plan aimed at portraying Venezuela as a backer of terrorism.Chávez denies supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) saying he only seeks a peaceful end to the neighboring country’s decades-long armed conflict.The European Union joined the United States in listing the FARC — Latin America’s largest rebel force with roughly 14,000 fighters — as a terrorist group in 2002, outlawing economic support for the guerrillas.
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