Colombia withdrew its consul-general
from the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo after President Hugo
Chavez said the diplomat would be expelled, said Nicolas Maduro,
Venezuela’s foreign minister.
An intercepted telephone call played on state television
showed the diplomat “talking in a strange way,” Chavez said in
a speech today. The call indicated a possible plan to use anti-
Chavez governors in Colombian border states to sow disunity in
Venezuela, Chavez said.
“I recommend that they think carefully, because if they
try, they’ll regret it all their life,” Chavez said.
Venezuela expelled its U.S. ambassador Sept. 11. That move
followed Bolivian President Evo Morales’s expulsion of the U.S.
ambassador to that country. Morales said the U.S. Embassy
supported secessionist leaders in Bolivia.
Venezolana de Television, the state news channel, played
the tape and said it was of Carlos Galvis Fajardo, Colombia’s
consul-general in the second-largest city in Venezuela, talking
with Jose Obdulio, an aide to Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
Comments by the person identified by the TV station as the
consul included that the new governors of Zulia and Tachira
states are “very good friends and I think that for our work
there, it has to be marvelous.” He later referred to Tachira’s
new governor, Pablo Perez, as “a very, very special friend here
The television station didn’t say how it got the tape.
The conflict follows a diplomatic rift between Colombia and
Venezuela in March, in which Chavez ordered tanks to the border
after Colombia bombed a guerrilla encampment in neighboring
Ecuador. The countries have a heavy cross-border trade,
including natural gas provided by Colombian state oil company
Ecopetrol SA and Chevron Corp. that is piped to Venezuela.
Chavez also said he had his military on alert to take over
police departments in Venezuela if they showed signs of opposing
the central government.
Calls to Colombia’s embassy in Caracas and to the
consulate in Maracaibo outside business hours weren’t answered.(Bloomberg)