In an interview with El Tiempo, Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said that over the last few months Colombia has put the brakes on Hugo Chavez’s “macho-ism” and as result the Venezuelan President has withdrawn his “expansionist and interventionist desires.”
According to Silva, “Chavez’s expansionist and interventionist desires have been dissuaded” but “Colombians and the armed forces are prepared to defend national sovereignty.”
Silva said that in terms of security, Colombia has always been concerned about the internal fight against narco-terrorism and the mafia, but “unfortunately there are also external risks and our obligation… is to tell the country that those risks exist and they have to be prepared for them.”
The defense minister said he hopes to see increased military presence in the Caribbean coastal town of Barranquilla’s airport because it has “the ideal technical conditions to strengthen our military presence and aerial defense.”
Silva called controversy over Colombia’s military bases agreement with the U.S. “a storm in a teacup” and said that the agreement, which grants the U.S. access to seven Colombian bases, “is the same as what we were doing before, but better and more organized. For example, the first action we took with the agreement was to work in conjuction [with the U.S.] to bring humanitarian aid to Haiti.”
Regarding Colombia’s strained relations with Ecuador, Silva claimed they were improving, particularly in terms of the two nations’ military cooperation along their common border in the fight against guerrilla organizations.
Silva recognized that while weakened, the FARC have not been extinguished “but if we continue with democratic security, we will achieve it in the near future. The snake is cornered and weak, but still alive.”
“When this government began (in August 2002) there were almost 24,000 [FARC members]. Today there are between 7,000 and 7,500,” Silva said.