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Warns against attack by Colombia military
Question of the Day
If actually carried out, such a threat would be a titanic economic blow for Mr. Chavez’s government, which depends heavily on oil sales. It’s likely Mr. Chavez made the warning in part to put the U.S. and Colombia on notice that he will not stand for a more aggressive international campaign to denounce allegations that leftist Colombian rebels are finding safe haven in Venezuela.
The Venezuelan leader cut off diplomatic relations with Colombia on Thursday after outgoing President Alvaro Uribe’s government presented photos, videos and maps of what it said were Colombian rebel camps inside Venezuela.
The Colombian government denies seeking a military conflict. It says it went to the Organization of American States with its evidence about the leftist rebels’ alleged presence in Venezuela because Mr. Chavez’s government has not addressed the situation.
In 2008, Mr. Chavez warned of a possible war with Colombia after the Colombian military staged a cross-border raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador that killed a guerrilla leader, Raul Reyes. Mr. Chavez on Sunday appeared to be giving a new warning to Colombia — and the U.S. — that he won’t tolerate a repeat in Venezuelan territory.
He said separately in a newspaper column, however, that he will wait to see if Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos, who takes office next month, expresses what Mr. Chavez deems a genuine willingness to ease the diplomatic conflict.
The conservative Mr. Uribe has frequently feuded with the socialist Mr. Chavez, and Colombian officials have long complained, mostly in private, that Mr. Chavez has harbored leaders of its two main leftist rebel groups.
Mr. Santos, however, has stressed the importance of mending trade relations with Venezuela that overwhelmingly benefit Colombia’s food producers. And Mr. Chavez has raised the possibility that relations could be restored under Mr. Santos.
Trade between Venezuela and Colombia has fallen about 70 percent since Mr. Chavez froze relations a year ago in response to Colombia’s decision to grant the U.S. military expanded access to its military bases.
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