WASHINGTON – The Venezuelan ambassador to the Organization of American States on Monday announced that his government does not want to have its border crisis with Colombia dealt with at a meeting of foreign ministers proposed by Bogota.
“My government does not support debating this issue in the OAS due to its regrettable and frustrating history with complex situations among the member states,” said Roy Chaderton.
“Instead of doing it bilaterally, once again we are putting together a media circus,” said Chaderton, referring to Colombia’s decision to take the crisis before the OAS.
That was the stance expressed by Venezuela in the extraordinary session the OAS held on Monday, at Colombia’s request, to discuss whether a meeting of foreign ministers of the entire hemisphere should be held to deal with the border crisis.
And the hemispheric body rejected Colombia’s proposal to convene the meeting of foreign ministers to deal with the border crisis. In a 17-5 vote with 11 abstentions and one absence, the OAS Permanent Council rejected Bogota’s meeting proposal.
Bogota was seeking to lay out for the ministers what it says is a humanitarian crisis sparked by the deportation of more than 1,000 of its citizens who lived in the Venezuelan state of Tachira, in addition to the situation of 7,162 Colombians who are said to have left the neighboring country voluntarily, according to official figures.
“We are coming in pain, outraged, indignant. We have been astonished at the arbitrary deportation and mistreatment of our countrymen due to the simple fact that they are Colombians and don’t have their papers in order,” Colombian Ambassador Andres Gonzalez said before Chaderton spoke.
“Raiding homes, taking them out by force, separating families, not letting them take their own belongings and marking houses – marking houses, for God’s sake – for later demolition,” the Colombian diplomat said in an impassioned speech.
Chaderton said that the crisis may be resolved bilaterally via a meeting of the two countries’ presidents, an offer made by Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro.
Caracas did agree, however, to have the issue brought up at the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, where a meeting of foreign ministers was scheduled for Thursday at the group’s headquarters in Ecuador.
Contraband has long been an issue on the 2,219-kilometer (1,378-mile) border, as the Venezuelan government uses subsidies and price controls to hold down the cost of fuel and staple foods, making it possible for Colombian smugglers to profit by reselling cheap goods from Venezuela.
The current crisis arose when Maduro on Aug. 19 ordered the closure of a stretch of border after suspected smugglers shot and wounded three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian.