Tensions increased between Colombia and its neighbor after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro called for his counterpart, Juan Manuel Santos, to “bow down” as “I am your father.”
The latest controversial Maduro statement came after Santos had offered to mediate a resolution to violent tensions between the Venezuelan government and the country’s opposition.
Bipartisan violence has killed more than 70 people this year and has spurred an increase in migration, mainly from Colombian residents of Venezuela.
Instead of allowing Colombian mediation, Maduro claimed Venezuela’s supremacy over its neighbor, stating that Colombian territory began its history in Venezuelan lands.
“We were a single republic, Colombia was founded here in Orinoco. The people of Guayana are the fathers of Colombia, our grandparents founded Colombia,” insisted Maduro during an act with workers in the southern state of Bolivar.
The increasingly authoritarian Venezuelan president was referring to the time of the historical republic of South America, Gran Colombia, which included territories of present-day Colombia, Venezuela, Panama and Ecuador.
“President Santos must ask for my blessing. Bow down, bow to your father. I am your father, Santos,” said Maduro, calling on Santos to “behave himself” and leave behind the “evil” against Venezuela.
In turn, the mocking comments from the neighboring government spurred Colombia’s Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin to dismiss Maduro’s remarks, reminding journalists on Friday that “I believe we have really big problems, a very complex situation [that is] difficult for Venezuelans.”
The leaders of each country have come forward in recent years with increasing criticisms of the others’ administrations.
Colombia and Venezuela call each other sister states — having both been liberated from Spain by the same General Simon Bolivar — but have had rocky relations well before late President Hugo Chavez began a “Bolivarian Revolution” that sought strict state control over the economy since the early 2000s.
While Santos had tried to refrain from further agitating Maduro and his late predecessor for years, the amplifying crisis in the neighboring countries has caused a major increase in migration from Venezuela, where millions live with dual nationality.