Sunday, July 25, 2010
President Hugo Chávez has temporarily suspended relations with the neighboring country of Colombia.
“I feel obliged for dignity’s sake to suspend relations with the government of Colombia. It is the least we can do, and we will remain alert, as [President Álvaro] Uribe is a sick man, filled with hate,” said Chávez during a ceremony at the Presidential Palace with the coach of the Argentinian national football team, Diego Maradona, whom he was meeting during Maradona’s visit to Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government has given Colombian diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.
“We have sent a message to the Colombian trade delegation in Caracas telling them to close their embassy and vacate the country,” Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Nicolás Maduro, informed the media.
In an extraordinary session at the headquarters of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC, the Colombian ambassador, Luis Alfonso Hoyos, declared that Chávez’s government was “harbouring FARC guerrillas” on Venezuelan territory and requested the formation of an international committee of inquiry to verify FARC’s presence in Venezuela within 30 days.
Venezuela’s representative to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, advised the assembly to pay no attention to the Colombian “forgeries” and declared that there were thousands of Colombians living in Venezuela and that they were being treated with respect and equality.
“I warn the international community. We will brook no aggression, nor any violations of our national sovereignty,” said Chávez, and added that any war with Colombia would “have to be fought with tears, but it would have to be fought.”
For its part, the United States criticised Venezuela’s decision to cut diplomatic ties.
“I don’t believe that cutting relations is the right way to go [to resolve this problem],” said Philip Crowley, spokesperson for the US State Department.
The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, also asked both sides to “calm their passions.”
“We have been able to resolve serious conflicts for many years. I hope that we will be able to do so again now, but both Venezuela and Colombia will have to concede ground,” said Insulza.