Mockus, who was quoted by Colombian media as saying he “admired in some aspects” the government of the Venezuelan president, released a two-page document clarifying his statement, which according to the candidate is being used by his opponents “to make me look like an enemy of President Uribe and Colombia’s interests.”
The Green Party candidate, who is currently leading in voter-intention polls, stated that “A head of state is mandated to manage relations with neighboring countries with respect, always aiming for the welfare of Colombians. I respect and do not interfere in the autonomous decision of the Venezuelan people elect their president Chavez, and I hope and want the Colombian to do the same.”
“In relation to Venezuela we must be prudent and respectful,” the former Bogota mayor added.
In an interview on national radio on Tuesday the Colombian politician said that he had misused the word “admire,” and had meant to express that he felt “respect” for elements of Chavez’s government.
“I respect President Chavez because he was elected and re-elected democratically and anyone elected democratically is respectable,” said Mockus. “I used the verb ‘admire’ and I’d like to change it to ‘respect.’”
Mockus received criticism for his original statement, due to current tensions that exist between the Colombian and Venezuelan governments.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe recently warned Chavez against involving himself in his country’s electoral process, saying that “undue interference by a foreign government offends the Colombian people and offends all candidates, whether they share or oppose the views of the government.”
Diplomatic ties between Colombia and Venezuela were severed in 2009, after Colombia signed a controversial pact with the U.S. which grants the Americans access to seven Colombian military bases. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says that the pact is part of a scheme by the U.S. to undermine sovereignty in the region.