Venezuela-Colombia tensions escalate

Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez charged Nov. 1 that Colombian intelligence agents were behind plots against his government, although he denied that they had undermined relations between the two neighbors.

The accusations come days after the firing of a top official in the Colombian secret police and the resignations of two others in a scandal over alleged links to right-wing paramilitary groups.

In an interview with Caracas-based Telesur TV, Chavez said his government has “many pieces of evidence” that “conspiracies are hatched against us in Colombian intelligence bodies.” He did not directly link the resignations in Colombia to his claims, but suggested that the recent scandals illustrate his complaint.

He charged that elements in Colombia “who obey Washington” are using false claims about Venezuela supporting leftist guerillas to undermine his government. Chavez says Venezuela has stepped up its security along the border and that claims of guerilla bases in Venezuelan territory are not true.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said knew nothing of alleged plots within his nation’s intelligence services, and challenged Chavez to produce details at the upcoming Americas Summit in Argentina.

“I hope President Chavez, in Mar de Plata, helps us with evidence,” Uribe told reporters as he left a meeting in Bogota.

Colombian Foreign Minister Carolina Barco said the government had never had any internal discussions on any plots against Venezuela. “Countries’ sovereignty is respected,” she said. (Newsday, Nov. 2)

The charges came days after Venezuela sentenced 27 Colombians to six years in prison for conspiring to overthrow the Chavez government. The menā€”said to be right-wing paramilitariesā€”denied their involvement in a coup plot.

More than 100 Colombians were arrested last year at a farm outside Caracas, where they maintained they were hired to work. However once they got there, the defendants claimed, they were forced to take part in an anti-Chavez plot. (UPI, Oct. 26)

See our last reports on Colombia and Venezuela, and our last posts on the ongoing tensions between the two countries, and Washington’s double standards on their respective human rights records.

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