Authorities in Venezuela arrested alleged Colombian intelligence officials who were caught “in espionage,” on Tuesday, said Deputy Foreign Minister for Latin America, Francisco Arias Cardenas.
“They will be presented in the next few hours by the Ministry of Interior and the security forces and will face charges by the Venezuelan courts,” Cardenas said, without disclosing the number or names of those captured, reported newspaper El Espectador.
In this “serious, grave situation, the capture of Colombian DAS agents engaging in espionage on Venezuela, we found that they were planning to destabilize our government, our people and our democracy,” the Minister said.
The announcement comes a day after the government of Hugo Chávez gave a letter to the Colombian ambassador in Caracas to express its “strong protest” regarding the alleged “espionage” carried out by Colombian officials, and demanded the “immediate cessation of clearly unfriendly activities.”
In a “note of protest,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry complained of “the repeated presence of DAS officials in Venezuelan territory … detected by espionage and attempted bribery,” but did not report any arrests as announced by Arias.
The Chavez government also lodged a formal protest to the Uribe administration on Saturday regarding a statement by Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva, in which he said that drug flights bound for Central America and the U.S. originated in Venezuela.
Relations between Colombia and Venezuela were frozen by President Chavez in July due to an agreement between Bogota and Washington regarding the use of seven Colombian military bases by U.S. troops, which, according to Caracas, is a “threat” to the Bolivarian Revolution and all countries of the region.