Colombia asked the Organization of American States July 16 to convene a meeting of its permanent council to address Bogotá’s accusation that guerillas are operating out of Venezuelan territory. The request came a day after President Alvaro Uribe‘s office announced it had “clear evidence” that four leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and one leader of the National Liberation Army (ELN) are “sheltering” in Venezuela.
Among the FARC leaders is one known only by the alias “Iván Márquez”“; other names are Rodrigo Granda AKA “Ricardo”; Timoleón Jiménez AKA “Timochenko” and Germán Briceño AKA “Grannobles”; the ELN leader was named as Carlos Marín Guarín AKA “Pablito” (identified elsewhere as Gustavo Anibal Giraldo Quinchia).
Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said that grid references of FARC and ELN camps in Venezuela gathered by Colombian intelligence agencies, prove Venezuela’s “continued and permanent tolerance” of guerillas in its territory. “We have overwhelming evidence of…a terrorist presence in Venezuela,” said Silva.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry rejected that claims as a “pathetic media spectacle” and a “desperate attempt to undermine the ground for an eventual normailzation of bilateral relations.” The statement accused Bogotá of “lies, aggression and disrespect” against Venezuela, and pledged “firm” political and diplomatic measures if the situation continues.
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez personally responded to the accusations, saying he wouldn’t fall for the provocations “because President Uribe is mafia and is capable of anything in the last few days that remain for him.”
Next month, Uribe hands over power to his successor and his former defense minister, Juan Manuel Santos. Santos invited Chávez to his inauguration, but also attacked Chávez on his campaign trail. Chávez has not yet said if he will attend the inauguration. “What’s happening here is the despair of a group of the extreme right around Uribe who are trying to generate a big conflict and prevent Santos from re-establishing respectful relations with his sister Veneuzela,” Chávez said.
Note that we saw a nearly identical episode exactly a year ago.