The UN representative in Colombia on Monday expressed deep concern over the potential impact that border tensions with Venezuela could have on ongoing peace talks with the FARC rebel group.
“A problem with Venezuela that could affect the commitment that it has always had with the (peace) process would be regrettable in a moment where it really seems that the process is advancing,” Fabrizio Hochschild, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator of the UN in Colombia, told French news agency AFP.
“To the extent that there is tension and fiery rhetoric between the two countries, it raises concerns that, in one way or another, Venezuela could move away,” Hochschild added.
Former presidents Alvaro Uribe and Andres Pastrana have called for Venezuela to be pushed out of the peace process, Hochschild deemed such an action “would be very grave” for the success of the peace process.
Such rhetoric from the former presidents “belittles the importance of Venezuela in the peace process,” Hochschild commented.
Since November 2012, the Colombian government has engaged the leftist guerilla group FARC in peace negotiations. The guerillas have been in armed conflict with the Colombian government since 1964. Venezuela joins Cuba, Chile, and Norway as sponsors of the peace process.
Tensions between the two brother nations started on August 19, when Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro closed the border between Colombia and the western Venezuelan state of Tachira, after an attack on Venezuelan military personnel patrolling for smugglers that left three injured. Maduro blamed the attacks on “Colombian paramilitaries.” The situation escalated late last week when both countries recalled their ambassadors.
Over a thousand Colombians living in Venezuela were deported on Maduro’s orders. Another 7,000 fled Venezuela voluntarily after fear of retribution from the Venezuelan authorities.
“They are returning to Colombia with nothing, to an area that has its own difficulties,” observed Hochschild.
So far, Venezuela’s government has not said anything about the peace talks that have been ongoing since November 2012 and only just appear to have overcome a major crisis that became visible in April when the FARC killed 11 soldiers and violence escalated.
The crisis required the intervention of host and sponsor countries like Venezuela to be solved.