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Venezuelan Ambassador and Staff Withdrawn from Colombia
Posted: Friday, July 31, 2009

By Tamara Pearson
July 30, 2009

On Tuesday night Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered the withdrawal of the Venezuelan ambassador and diplomatic staff from Colombia, following US military build up in Colombia and Colombia's accusations that Venezuela had supplied the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) with weapons.

"We're going to freeze relations with Colombia," Chavez said.

Chavez also said the government would examine Venezuela's economic relations with Colombia and the possibility of substituting imports from Colombia with those from other countries. "If the Colombian government thinks we're dependent on its imports, it's mistaken," he said.

He warned that if Colombia continued verbally attacking Venezuela, "We will end our relations, in every respect." That could include expropriating Colombian companies on Venezuelan territory, he said.

In response to Chavez's pronouncements, Jose Insulza, general secretary of the Organisation of America States (OAS) called on the two countries not to retaliate economically, and offered the services of the organisation to facilitate dialogue.

The Colombian government, in a press release yesterday, reiterated its accusation that Venezuela was "supplying" weapons to the FARC, a Colombian guerrilla organization. Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos said on Monday that weapons seized from a FARC camp last year were purchased by Venezuela in the 1980s.

The accusations followed comments by Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minister Nicolas Maduro last week that the recent expansion of US access to Colombian military bases will strengthen troops, technology and weaponry that could be used against the Latin American region and especially Venezuela.

On Tuesday, Chavez also said that Venezuela had recently captured nine Colombian drug trafficking leaders. "Imagine if one of these drug traffickers had obtained a gun here in Venezuela that said 'A. Uribe'. Then I come out, the president of Venezuela, without investigating anything, and I say that president Uribe is giving weapons to drug traffickers... how irresponsible!"

Chavez said a lot of the weapons the FARC use are manufactured in Russia, Israel, and the United States. "Colombia might have to complain to the United States as well!" said the president.

Education Minister Hector Navarro also commented sarcastically yesterday, "The ultra-right is so creative that surely there'd be some of them saying that the weapons sent to Cuba by the [Venezuelan] government of Wolfgang Larrazabal in 1958 to support the Cuban guerrilla struggle were sent by President Chavez."


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