President Hugo Chavez on Thursday broke all ties with Colombia, following Colombia’s allegations before the Organization of American States that there are 87 guerrilla camps in Venezuelan territory.
“I announce it with a tear in my heart. From this moment Venezuela breaks all relations with Colombia,” Chavez announced in Caracas. “Out of dignity it is the least that we can do,” the leader said, after the “seriousness” of Colombia’s presentation to OAS.
Chavez accused Colombian President Alvaro Uribe of damaging relations between the two nations. “President Uribe is sick with hatred,” for Venezuela, according to the socialist president.
“I have ordered a maximum alert on our border,” said the Venezuelan leader.
“I hope the [Colombian] government-elect will return to the path of reason in Colombia,” Chavez said in reference to the incoming administration of Juan Manuel Santos, so that “the situation does not become more serious.”
Venezuela’s response to Colombia’s OAS presentation
Venezuela’s ambassador to OAS, Roy Chaderton Matos, on Thursday labelled Colombia’s evidence of a guerrilla presence in Venezuela as “fantasies of Garcia Marquez” and dismissed the evidence as “malicious” and “evident lies.”
Chaderton expressed doubt over the authenticity of Colombia’s evidence, commenting that the beach on which ELN guerrilla “Pablito” was photographed drinking a Venezuela brand of beer, looked like Colombia’s Caribbean resort town Santa Marta.
The official blamed Bogota for any presence of guerrillas within Venezuelan borders, commenting that “Colombia doesn’t protect its side of the border and makes it very difficult for us to stop criminals sneaking in along the length of the border.”
“The FARC and the ELN and the paramilitary are a Colombian phenomenon and they are still in Colombia because the president, as conceited as he is, does not comply with his promises,” said the Venezuelan diplomat.
Chaderton rejected a proposal by Colombia’s ambassador to the OAS Luis Alfonso Hoyos to send an international commission into Venezuela to verify Colombia’s claims. The Venezuelan said it would set a “strange precedent” if the OAS allowed member nations to interfere on the internal affairs of other countries.
Chaderton called the final weeks of Uribe’s leadership a “media circus” and said the Colombia leader had put relations between his country and its neighbor in jeopardy.
Chaderton’s comments came in response to Colombia’s presentation before the OAS Thursday, in which Colombian Ambassador to the OAS Luis Alfonso Hoyos supplied detailed video and photographic evidence of 87 guerrilla camps located in Venezuela.
Hoyos spoke of a”consolidated presence, active and growing, of these terrorist groups in the brother country of Venezuela” and called on the socialist nation to “accept its obligation to impede the presence of these groups on its territory, which are not attacked or persecuted as they should be.”
The Colombian showed sections of a video of FARC leaders “Ivan Marquez” and “Rodrigo Granda” in a camp, which, according to Hoyos, was filmed in Venezuela. Hoyos said the entire video will be handed over to OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza.
Hoyos also presented a map marked with the locations of various guerrilla camps in the region. “If they say that this is not Venezuelan territory, then that would be because Venezuela gave it to the guerrillas,” he said.
Hoyos said that the guerrillas were “in a summer camp, getting fat, resting up and preparing to attack Colombia.” He also alleged that the camps were used for training guerrillas in the use of explosives and kidnapping tactics.
Hoyos reiterated Colombia’s willingness to work with Venezuela in the fight against terrorism but added that “these little angels can not continue in these summer camps. Venezuela needs to comply with its national and international obligations to track down these terrorists … and hand them over so they can be judged by the justice system.”
The Colombian government last Friday revealed evidence of the exact locations of top FARC and ELN guerrilla commanders, who the government claims are hiding out in camps in Venezuela.
Caracas had previously labelled the evidence “a pathetic media show,” with Chavez claiming that this is a last ditch attempt by Uribe to sabotage the incoming Colombian government’s relations with Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government has always vehemently denied allegations that rebels are hiding in its territory, and maintains that Venezuela is not a guerrilla safe haven.
Venezuela froze diplomatic relations in 2009, after Colombia signed a pact that grants the U.S. military access to seven Colombian army bases, which Chavez views as an attempt to undermine regional sovereignty.
Chavez’s government had stated that it would not consider restoring relations while Uribe remained in office.
Before Colombia announced it had proof of guerrilla presence in Venezuela, Chavez had authorized a meeting between his Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and the incoming Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, as a step towards repairing diplomatic ties.
Bermudez denied Monday that the Uribe government sought to sabotage attempts to repair Colombia-Venezuela relations.
Prior to Colombia’s presentation to the OAS, both countries recalled their respective ambassadors.