Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday in a speech at the Mercosur summit in Argentina that his nation believes that the diplomatic crisis with Colombia “will be over within the next few days.”
Maduro went on to say that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s absence at the summit was due to health reasons and because he was “attending to a complex and difficult situation regarding peace in Venezuela.”
Chavez announced Monday evening that he would not be attending the summit because he had gotten wet and caught the flu.
Maduro reiterated a comment he made on Monday that his nation’s diplomatic crisis was more an issue for the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) than Mercosur.
In late July, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe‘s outgoing administration presented allegations to the OAS of a guerrilla presence in Venezuela, causing the socialist nation to immediately break all ties with Colombia.
Chavez’s administration has since said it may be disposed to repair severed ties with its neighbor nation after Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos is sworn in on August 7, on the condition that relations are based on “respect.”
Leon Valencia, an analyst from Colombian NGO Nuevo Arco Iris told Efe that “it’s possible that when Santos assumes power a quick dialogue will be started on how to confront the guerrilla at the border and relations may improve.”
Ruben Sanchez, a political scientist from the Universidad del Rosario, said that “the problems with Venezuela are not recent, they have quite a long past that begins with the boundary of the borders. What’s new is the personal character that the confrontation has taken,” between Uribe and Chavez.
“When Santos assumes the presidency a new process can begin. It won’t be resolved structurally but it can be better,” he added.
Michael Shifter, director of Dialogo Interamericano, agreed with Sanchez but added he doubted improved relations would last for long.
“There is a great distrust between the two countries, it won’t be resolved easily. Moreover, Chavez has an internal and regional agenda that clashes, Shifter said.
Valencia said that while there are serious problems between the two nations, “these are exaggerated by their leaders, who, each time they face-off, appear stronger.”
“Within the Venezuelan government there is a deep conviction that the U.S. is going to invade via Colombia,” while “in Colombia they are convinced that Chavez is interested in a deal with the guerrilla to take down the Colombian government,” Valencia said.
Tensions flared up even more over the weekend between Bogota and Caracas, after Chavez deployed troops to the Colombian border, claiming that Uribe’s administration had threatened his country with war.
In a bid to smooth ruffled feathers, UNASUR Secretary General Nestor Kirchner and Brazilian President Lula da Silva will meet with Chavez and both the incoming and outgoing presidents of Colombia prior to Santos’ inauguration.
Mercosur is a regional trade agreement between Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Venezuela is in the process of joining but has yet to have its application ratified.
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) is an intergovernmental union involving Mercosur and the Andean Community of Nations (CAN), of which Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are members.
Uribe will not attend the Mercosur summit either.