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Uribe/Chavez conflict escalates and freezes hostage release

Sunday, November 25th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
Full article
The neighbouring presidents have their sights on opposite horizons The neighbouring presidents have their sights on opposite horizons

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has said he is ready to continue a “constructive dialogue” with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez after Bogota stopped the latter in his mediation bid with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) insurgents for release of hostages.

But from Caracas president Chavez said he is putting relations with Colombia "in the freezer" and warned economic relations will be hurt, blaming actions by Colombian President Uribe that he said were "a spit in the face". "I declare before the world that I'm putting relations with Colombia in the freezer because I've completely lost confidence with everyone in the Colombian government," Chavez said during a televised speech. In an 18-point communiqué, the Colombian government warned that the FARC rebels have an interest in "creating divisions and antagonism between Colombia and Venezuela". "We must not fall into the traps of terrorism" said Uribe in his first statement after Chavez's acid response to Colombia's decision to cancel Venezuelan mediation in the search for an accord with the FARC. Uribe said his government would continue making "every effort to secure the release of the hostages and hopes that the FARC, instead of carrying on with their terrorist stupidity, will hand over the hostages to President Chavez or President Sarkozy (of France), or to the International Red Cross unilaterally and as soon as possible". The message said that instead of providing proof that the hostages are alive, in recent weeks the FARC murdered 12 candidates for regional elections and tried to kill governor of Cauca Juan Jose Chaux. "Colombia cannot permit FARC terrorists to take advantage of the grief of the hostages and their families, take advantage of international good offices, take advantage of pleas for a humanitarian accord, all to weaken our policy of a secure democracy, which is the only thing that in the end will eliminate kidnapping and restore peace", said the presidential statement. Bogota called off Chavez's mediation after the Venezuelan president spoke directly with the Colombian military command, despite Uribe's objection. "The government cannot allow third parties to involve the Colombian military in the discussion, because it goes against our democratic traditions of unity in the armed forces" Uribe said in his statement. Chavez said he feels "betrayed" and has lost confidence in Uribe, adding that the latter's decision to terminate his efforts to secure the release of hostages held by leftist rebels will affect bilateral relations. Chavez agreed in August to a request by Colombian opposition Senator Piedad Cordoba - with Uribe's support - to secure the exchange of 45 high-profile hostages by the FARC for hundreds of jailed guerrillas, including those extradited to the United States.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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