Colombian consul recalled from Venezuela's restive Zulia state
Colombia recalled its top diplomat in Venezuela's second largest city last week after President Hugo Chávez threatened to expel the official for allegedly expressing support for his political opponents. Chávez criticized Colombia's consul in Maracaibo, Carlos Galvis, for privately welcoming the opposition victory in Zulia state, which borders Colombia, in the recent gubernatorial elections. In a secretly recorded telephone conversation broadcast on state TV, Galvis called the opposition's electoral gains "very good news." Chávez demanded Colombia recall Galvis, adding, "If not, I'll expel him."
In statements to the press, Galvis protested that Venezuela's security forces were evidently eavesdropping on him. "It's a violation of one of my fundamental rights, the right to privacy," he told Venezuela's Union Radio. But he also told Colombia's RCN TV that a Venezuelan journalist had "cloned" mobile and fixed telephones at the consulate, implying that an imposter may have made the controversial phone call pretending to be him. (AP, Dec. 2; Prensa Latina, Nov. 30)
The Venezuelan and Colombian governments have long traded accusations over Zulia, with Caracas charging Colombian infiltration of right-wing paramilitaries to back up the opposition and Bogotá counter-charging use of the territory as a staging ground by the FARC guerillas.
On Dec. 5, eight Colombian National Police agents were killed and one injured in a FARC ambush on a patrol near the Venezuelan border in Fortul municipality, Arauca department (across from the Venezuelan state of Apure, to Zulia's south). (Bloomberg from AFP, Dec. 5)
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