Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez sought to diffuse escalating tensions with Venezuela Wednesday, following Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s threat to close the border permanently.
The Colombian government denounces the deaths of two members of the Venezuelan National Guard, Bermudez stressed in a press release released Wednesday.
The government is prepared to cooperate fully with the Venezuelan investigation into the deaths in order to find and punish those responsible, the Bermudez added.
The two officials were shot by men on motorbikes just feet away from the border on Monday.
Venezuela alleges that the perpetrator is a Venezuelan ally of Colombian paramilitaries.
Authorities on the Venezuelan side of the border near Cucuta immediately decided to close two main checkpoints connecting Colombia’s Norte de Santander department and Venezuela’s Tachira state, following the deaths. These were opened temporarily Tuesday afternoon to allow stuck travelers to cross the borders. Trucks were not allowed to pass.
Brazilian President Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva suggested the possibility of a non-agression pact between Colombia and Venezuela as well as a joint monitoring system of their common border, in an interview with El Pais Wednesday.
‘Lula’ said Brazil would be prepared to assist in “technical aspects” such as providing surveillance airplanes.
The border has long been a reason of friction between the country as both paramilitary and guerrilla fighters from Colombia cross it to escape Colombian authorities and move Colombian-produced cocaine to Venezuela for further transport. The Venezuelan states bordering Colombia have soaring crime rates and no more than two weeks ago two massacres were committed on Colombian citizens.
Closing the border would further deteriorate the situation for Colombian exporters who already have seen a decrease in income because of the tensions between the two neighboring countries.