Colombia denies Chávez's accusations that it plans to invade Venezuela(Read article summary)
One day after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez ordered troops sent to the border, Colombia denied Saturday that it had any intention of invading its 'brother country.'
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"Colombia has never thought of attacking its brother nation [Venezuela] as the president of that country says, in a clear political deception of his own country," Colombian President Álvaro Uribe's office said in a statement issued Saturday.
Colombia will, however, continue to insist that Venezuela stop harboring members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), even though Chávez has consistently denied any collusion with the leftist rebels that have fought the Colombian government for decades.
"Colombia has gone to the channels of international law and will continue insisting on those mechanisms so there is an instrument to make the Venezuelan government comply with its obligations not to harbor Colombian terrorists," said the statement.
Relations between the two nations have soured in recent days after Mr. Uribe presented evidence that Mr. Chávez is harboring the FARC. On Friday, Chávez declared that he had ordered Venezuelan troops to the border in response to a perceived threat from Colombian forces.
The latest round of sabre-rattling between Uribe and Chávez was spurred ten days ago when Colombia presented evidence to the Organization of American States (OAS) of FARC forces camped within Venezuelan borders. The Christian Science Monitor reported that the tensions were such that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for restraint and several South American nations offered to mediate the dispute.
But The Washington Post reported yesterday that an emergency meeting of South American foreign ministers in Quito, Ecuador, ended Friday without resolution of the diplomatic crisis, and that the relationship between the two nations is "in tatters."
According to Colombia's foreign minister, Venezuela's El Universal writes, the UNASUR ministers present had agreed on a declaration that would have included commitment to creating a "mechanism for effective cooperation and monitoring" of the FARC's presence within Venezuela, but that Venezuela vetoed the declaration "at the last minute." El Universal also reports that Venezuela denied that it had torpedoed a final declaration at the meeting, which Venezuela's foreign minister insisted was not the meeting's purpose.
FARC wants to talk?
Ironically, the ongoing spat between Chávez and Uribe comes amid modest signs of hope for a resolution between the FARC and the incoming administration of President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who is set to enter office on August 7. BBC News reports that FARC leader Alfonso Cano offered in a recently broadcast videotape to talk to Mr. Santos's administration in an effort to find a political resolution to the guerrilla war the FARC has been waging since the 1960s.
"Between all of us, we have to find common ground and, with the input of a majority of Colombians, we have to identify the difficulties, the problems and contradictions, and create perspectives and a way out of the armed conflict," Mr. Cano said.
But Mr. Cano also criticized Santos, who served as defense minister under Uribe, and warned that the FARC would have "no other option but to continue the armed struggle" if Colombia continued its military campaign against the group.
Agence France-Presse reports that Vice-president elect Angelino Garzon responded to Cano's offer by insisting that the FARC must release its prisoners and cease its military operations before any talks can be held.
"The government of Juan Manuel Santos has not closed the door to peace, but we're demanding that the guerrillas release all the people they've kidnapped, stop their terrorist activities ... and free the children they've recruited by force," he said.