Venezuela on Wednesday threatened to withdraw its support for peace talks between the Colombian government and rebel group FARC in a furious response to a visit by Venezuela’s opposition leader to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos.
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who is challenging the results of presidential elections he lost to President Nicolas Maduro last month, met with Santos at the presidential palace in Bogota for an hour on Wednesday before meeting with top lawmakers.
The visit is part of a tour through Latin America Capriles began to seek support for his call to recount April’s election results the opposition is claiming was won by Maduro through electoral fraud. According to Capriles, his government is “illegitimate.”
While the visit to Santos was low profile — the Colombian president released no statement on the content of the meeting, the Venezuelan government reacted furiously.
“President Santos has taken a step … that will lead to the derailing of the good relationship we had,” said Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on state television.
Jaua threatened to withdraw as mediator in peace talks between the Colombian government and the country’s largest rebel group, the FARC.
“Without a doubt today’s situation obligates us to study Venezuela’s participation as a facilitator in the peace accord,” Jaua said.
On his Twitter account, the top official additionally linked to an article on a pro-government website in which an “expert” said the meeting was part of a U.S. conspiracy to undermine the leftist Venezuelan government.
“Reunión entre Santos y Capriles, parte del plan de EE.UU. para derrocar a Maduro” dlvr.it/3RdSvs
— Elias Jaua PSUV (@EliasJauaPSUV) May 30, 2013
Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of Venezuela’s National Assembly and a close ally of Maduro, went as far as saying that Santos had “planted a bomb” under the neighbors’ relationship.
Colombia’s foreign minister refused to extensively respond to the Venezuelan allegations, telling press her government will contact that of Venezuela directly “and without microphones.”
“In order to stay away from the microphone diplomacy that is so harmful, we will discuss this issue directly with the Venezuelan government,” Minister Maria Angela Holguin was quoted as saying by Colombian press.
Capriles said not to care about “what this illegitimate government says” and compared the criticism of his meeting with President Santos to “mosquito bites.”
Venezuela has not spoken this harshly about its neighbor since Santos took office in August 2010 and made the improvement of the relationship between the two countries a top priority. Before Santos assumed power, Venezuela had frozen relations over accusations by Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe, who accused the government of late President Hugo Chavez of aiding the FARC.