Brazil’s Offer to Mediate in Venezuela-Colombia Conflict Vetoed by Chavez

Hugo Chavez Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rejected on Friday a Brazilian proposal for a joint border monitoring system with Colombia. He said he would not allow any "extra-national force" along the Venezuelan border zone with Colombia.

In a recent discussion with an advisor to Brazilian President Lula, Chavez stated that "we will protect our own border, as Brazil protects its own border … we will not accept a foreign force taking care of our frontier, Colombia can take care of its own."

Chavez further declared that "the problem is not the border, the problem is the military bases," referring to the agreement made public on November 4 in which Colombia will allow US forces access to seven bases throughout the country, reported Bogota's Newspaper El Tiempo on Friday.

In a public television broadcast on Friday Chavez said "the US will be in Colombia like Her Majesty's secret agent 007, licensed to kill anyone, anywhere." He also called Colombian president Alvaro Uribe a US "lackey" who "has delivered Colombia to the empire."

Venezuela froze relations with Colombia in July after claiming that the military agreement represented a threat to the "sovereignty" of Venezuela and Latin America as a whole. Chavez then closed the border with Colombia and ordered military officials and the Venezuelan people to prepare for a potential war.

However on Wednesday, Chavez changed his aggressive tone and retracted the war declarations, denying that he was promoting armed conflict with Colombia.

"It's not Venezuela that is threatening Colombia, nor is Colombia threatening Venezuela…It's the US empire which is threatening Venezuela and using Colombian territory delivered by the lackey of Uribe."

Brazil proposed to Colombia and Venezuela the creation of border vigilance commission as the first step to cool tensions between the two neighboring countries.

The commission would have a similar framework to that which is working for Colombia and Ecuador, that facilitates the exchange of official information on what is happening along border areas, said Marco Aurélio Garcia, President Lula International Affairs advisor.

"If help is needed to keep watch along the border, we are willing to contribute," said Garcia during a press conference in Rio do Janeiro.

Relations between Colombia and Venezuela have been frozen for months on orders from Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Lately the situation has become even tenser because of several incidents along the border with President Chavez, last Sunday, calling on the military and civilian population to "prepare for war."

Two days later Chavez blamed the press for "distorting" his "reflections."

According to Garcia the proposal for a commission would be done following consultations with Colombian president Alvaro Uribe and Chavez, which could happen when the Amazon summit Brazil is hosting next November 26th in Manaus, to try and reach a common position regarding the Copenhagen Climate conference.

"If we can consult both presidents, we will be making the proposal," said Garcia although admitting the exact date of the summit is in doubt because some leaders have "agenda problems."

The Brazilian government has on several occasions offered to mediate between Colombia and Venezuela, as long as both countries so request it.

Lula has anticipated his intention is to get both leaders (Chavez and Uribe) "talking to each other" during the Manaus summit.

According to Garcia the vigilance commission could begin "with a non aggression pact between both countries leading to normal relations."

Nevertheless Garcia admitted that the long border between Colombia and Venezuela is a "complicated" area because of the presence of guerrilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC; the National Liberation Army, ELN; paramilitary forces; the drugs gangs and criminals of all kinds.

Mercopress

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