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 Ch├ívez threatened to expel the official for allegedly expressing support for his political opponents. Ch├ívez 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.” Ch├ívez 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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