Venezuela and Colombia at brink of war—again?

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez announced Aug. 8 he is sending his ambassador back to Bogotá—while not formally re-establishing relations or backing down from opposing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s plan to open the country’s military bases to a bigger US presence. “The decision to freeze relations with Uribe’s government remains,” Chávez told reporters. “We have plenty of reasons to be highly concerned.” Chávez told Ambassador Gustavo Marquez to return 11 days after he was ordered home. (AP, Aug. 10) However, the next day, Chávez accused Colombian soldiers of crossing into his country. “We are not talking about a patrol with a few soldiers that strayed over a border,” Chávez said on his weekly television show Aug. 9. “These troops crossed the Orinoco River in a boat and carried out an incursion into Venezuelan territory… When our troops got there [the Colombian troops] had already gone away.” (AlJazeera, Aug. 10)

Arriving in Ecuador for the UNASUR summit the day after the alleged incursion, Chávez told reporters: “The winds of war are beginning to blow… I am not going to allow them to do to Venezuela what they did to Ecuador”—a reference to a 2008 Colombian raid on a guerrilla camp in Ecuadoran territory. “We would respond militarily and decisively if the pro-war forces in Colombia, egged on by the United States, dare to launch aggression against Venezuela.” (AlJazeera, Aug. 10)

At the Quito summit, presidents Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva of Brazil and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina urged that Uribe and President Obama meet with South American leaders soon to discuss a planned increase in US military forces in Colombia. Kirchner said the proposal is creating “a belligerent, unprecedented and unacceptable situation.” (NYT, Aug. 10)

See our last posts on Venezuela and militarization of Colombia.

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