Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says that Colombia’s foreign relations, particularly with Venezuela, will improve when his mandate ends, but that the next government will not stop protesting against the harboring of guerrillas across the border.
“We have to preserve brotherhood with the Venezuelan people. You know I have caused problems for having made changes in my foreign policy… For having demanded that in no place should terrorism be hidden,” Uribe said during a speech in the eastern border department of Cucuta.
The president said he hoped his departure will clear the air with foreign governments, but that the next administration continues the fight against terrorism.
“We can not go back to the old error of believing that in order to maintain good international relations, we shouldn’t complain about the presence of Colombian guerrillas over the borders,” Uribe said, alluding to the FARC who are believed to have camps in Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama, Peru and Brazil.
“A firm and prudent international policy, when the animosity that my presence causes will no longer be an issue, will help to fully re-establish the historic rights of the citizens along the border,” Uribe said.
Uribe expressed concern over Venezuela’s deteriorating economy and stressed that due to “economic osmosis, if we are doing well, our neighbor does well. If the neighbor isn’t going well, we are going to go badly too.”
Colombia and Venezuela have a history of rocky relations, but frictions have worsened in recent months over Colombia’s agreement to give the U.S. increased access to its military bases – a deal that Venezuela views as a threat to the region
Relations between Uribe and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez are particularly caustic. Uribe alleges that Chavez’s government has allowed Colombian rebels to take refuge inside Venezuela. Chavez, who has repeatedly rejected the allegations, complains of the spillover of Colombian’s internal conflict into Venezuelan territory.
Chavez has been outspoken in his dislike for Partido de la U candidate Juan Manuel Santos, calling the former defense minister “a threat to the region” and a “wolf dressed up as Little Red Riding Hood,” because of the way he is “going around searching for votes.”
Santos has attempted to soothe concerns that his election may lead to conflict with Venezuela, stating that although he and Chavez are “like water and oil,” if elected, he will “do everything possible to maintain the best relations” with the socialist nation.
Venezuela has firmly maintained that it will not begin to repair shattered diplomatic relations while Uribe remains in power.