Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez said Colombia is “sovereign” and as such can sign a military agreement with the United States, an issue which at the time triggered a bilateral conflict and which he admitted having addressed with Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos during their meeting this week.
“We’ve always stated that Colombia, as Venezuela, is sovereign to establish agreements with any country in the world, as long as none of those accords affects the sovereignty of neighbours or becomes a threat. This was one of the issues we talked with president Santos”, said Chavez during a brief encounter with the press following the bilateral summit in Santa Marta, which resulted in the resumption of full diplomatic relations.
Relations were severed last July 22 when former president Alvaro Uribe claimed before the Organization of American States that Chavez was harbouring guerrillas and their leaders in Venezuelan territory. The Venezuelan leader rejected point blank the accusations and furious decided to cut all links.
However bilateral trade between the neighbouring countries is too important to be left aside and was punishing many on both sides of the border. Annual trade is in the range of 7 billion US dollars and had fallen below a billion USD.
Relations between the two countries begun to deteriorate in July 2009 when President Chavez decided to “freeze” links to reject a military accord of Bogotá with Washington which allows a limited presence of US troops in seven bases in Colombian territory. Caracas considered the treaty as a threat to Venezuela’s sovereignty and at the time warned of “war drums” in the region.
During the electoral campaign Santos, who as Minister of Defence negotiated the agreement with United States, promised he would explain details and extent of the understanding personally to Chavez.
During Tuesday’s summit in Santa Marta, the two countries agreed the creation of a security commission for the border area and Chavez reiterated guarantees that his government does not support the Colombian insurgents.