Colombia said it is preparing its defences against a possible foreign military attack, amid growing tensions with neighboring Venezuela, while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday Colombia would regret any actions that hurt his country.
Without specifically accusing Venezuela, Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva was quoted as saying on Sunday that his country was preparing a strategy to ward off any attack.
Colombia, a close ally of the United States, and Venezuela, whose leader Chavez is one of the most strident critics of the United States in Latin America, are locked in a growing political and trade dispute. Chavez, an outspoken socialist, accuses the United States of planning to invade Venezuela with the help of Colombia, a charge the United States denies.
The two Andean countries almost went to war in 1987 in a dispute over a maritime border in the Caribbean Gulf.
Chavez ordered tanks to the Colombian border in 2008 after Colombia raided a rebel base inside Ecuador. Chavez ally President Rafael Correa condemned the raid as an aggression. Tensions eased after a summit a week later.
“In Colombia, we have concentrated on the internal threat. But the risk is growing because what has been clearly and directly presented is an eventual action against Colombia from outside,” Silva told El Tiempo newspaper.
Colombia has for decades struggled to subdue Marxist rebels profiting from the cocaine trade inside the country.
“Colombia was not used to thinking about this eventuality in its foreign policy and defense strategy. Unfortunately now we have to put this variable on the map. There is a risk of a foreign aggression,” Silva said.
Colombia last week activated seven new army battalions, including two along the Venezuelan frontier.