Colombia takes Chávez war talk to Security Council

Colombia took what it called threats of war from neighbouring Venezuela to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday after Hugo Chávez, leader of Venezuela, told his army to get ready to fight.

For months Chávez has said that a military pact signed in October between Bogotá and Washington could set the stage for a US invasion of Venezuela from Colombian territory.

The US and Colombia dismiss that idea, saying their cooperation is aimed strictly at combating drug traffickers and Marxist insurgents within Colombia.

During a televised address on Sunday, Chávez ordered his military to prepare for war as the best way to preserve peace.

Colombia responded with a letter to the UN Security Council “about Venezuela’s threats of using force against Colombia”, a Foreign Ministry statement said.

“The Colombian government asks that the letter be distributed among all member nations of the Security Council,” the statement said.

The formal complaint could further anger Chávez, the fiery leftist revolutionary who once called former US president George Bush “the devil”.

Recriminations have increased recently, with Colombia accusing Chávez of not helping to combat drug-running rebels hiding out on Venezuela’s side of the border and Chávez characterising Colombia as a lap-dog of the US “empire”.

“Prepare yourselves for war,” Chávez told his military commanders during his regular Sunday TV programme. “If you want peace you have to be ready for war.”

He has since softened his rhetoric, and on Wednesday said the media had manipulated his words.

“Venezuela’s military is pacifist,” he said, adding that all nations use their armies to defend against invasion.

The spat is unlikely to lead to armed conflict along the lengthy border separating the countries. But the tensions have reduced bi-lateral trade, which amounted to more than $7-billion last year.

Both Chávez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe tend to get domestic political mileage out of the verbal sparring.

Washington sees Uribe as a buffer against Chávez and other leftists in the region such as President Rafael Correa of Ecuador, which also shares a border with Colombia.—Reuters

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