Financial Times UK: Colombia has said it will appeal to the United Nations Security Council and the Organization of American States after Hugo Chavez, the fiery leftist president of neighbouring Venezuela, ordered his army to prepare for war in order, he said, to assure peace.
For months Mr Chavez has said that a military co-operation pact signed last month between Bogota and Washington could set the stage for a US invasion of Venezuela from Colombian territory.
The US and Colombia dismiss that idea, saying co-operation is aimed strictly at fighting drug traffickers and Marxist insurgents within Colombia. But during a television address on Sunday, Mr Chavez ordered his military to prepare for war as the best way to preserve peace in the region. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe shot back with a statement rejecting the Venezuelan remarks. “Generals of the armed forces, the best way to avoid a war is to prepare for one,” Mr Chavez said in the address. “Don’t make the mistake of attacking: Venezuela is willing to do anything.”
Colombia responded by calling for “frank dialogue” with Venezuela over their long-simmering diplomatic spat.
“Considering the threats of war enunciated by the government of Venezuela, the government of Colombia proposes going to the Organization of American States and the Security Council of the United Nations,” the statement said.
Venezuela has spent more than $3 billion on arms, prompting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to warn against an arms race in the region. Colombia recently asked the World Trade Organization to intercede after Mr Chavez blocked the import of some Colombian goods in protest at the US military pact. After the US, the neighboring Andean countries are each other’s second-biggest trade partners. Commerce last year between Colombia and Venezuela was more than $7 billion.
Colombia says the blocking of imports has exacerbated the country’s recession and hurt an export sector already clobbered by low global demand brought by the world financial crisis.
Washington sees Mr Uribe as a buffer against his Venezuelan counterpart and other socialists in the region such as Rafael Correa of Ecuador, a country that also shares a border with Colombia.