With none able thus far to prevent the two leaders from sparring, this latest fight might seem to create an insurmountable obstacle to improved relations. But Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington, says pragmatics and voter sentiment will drive the relationship in the coming years, and that calmer seas are ahead – despite this most recent spat.
“This is vintage Chávez, and vintage Uribe, playing out their last act together as presidents at each other for eight years,” says Mr. Shifter. “But I think when Santos takes over, things are going to calm down. I think there is a lot at stake for both countries.”
On Thursday, the Colombian ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS) presented evidence to back up charges that Chávez is protecting Marxist guerrillas, including aerial photos and videos. He demanded that Venezuela allow international teams to inspect sites where Colombia alleges some 1,500 rebels are hiding. "We have the right to demand that Venezuela doesn't hide those wanted by Colombia," Luis Alfonso Hoyos said.
His Venezuelan counterpart, Roy Chaderton, called the evidence suspect. Chávez has long denied Colombian accusations against him. On Friday, however, the US State Department said the allegations should be taken "very seriously."