Tuesday, March 4, 2008

President Bush today said he supports Colombia in its military standoff with Venezuela and Ecuador, criticizing what he called “provocative actions” by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Mr. Bush also called on Congress to pass a free trade agreement with Colombia, calling it a “matter of national security.”

Mr. Bush spoke with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe by phone from the White House this morning.

“I told him that America fully supports Colombia’s democracy, and that we firmly oppose any acts of aggression that could destabilize the region,” Mr. Bush said.

Venezuela and Ecuador have both placed thousands of military troops on Colombia’s border following a cross-border raid over the weekend by Colombia’s military, targeting a senior Colombian rebel.

Mr. Bush, however, indicated his support of Colombia’s actions and his intent to support them in this conflict.

“America will continue to stand with Colombia as it confronts violence and terror and fights drug traffickers, Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush also said that Mr. Uribe told him this morning that congressional approval of the pending free trade agreement with Colombia is one of the most important ways America can demonstrate its support for Colombia.

Mr. Bush said that the free trade agreement will show the Colombian people that democracy and free enterprise lead to a better life.

It will help President Uribe counter the radical vision of those who are seeking to undermine democracy and create divisions within our hemisphere, Mr. Bush said, in an obvious shot at Mr. Chavez.

Mr. Chavez has positioned about 9,000 soldiers on his countries’ border with Colombia, and yesterday, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa also ordered troops to Colombia’s border.

The Colombian military forces crossed Ecuador’s border to kill Raul Reyes, second in command of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and said they found evidence of Venezeulan cooperation with FARC.

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