BOGOTA – The Colombian government confirmed Wednesday that President Alvaro Uribe held an “informal” meeting with a delegation from the regime running Honduras since the June 28 ouster of elected head of state Mel Zelaya.
The government commented hours after the junta’s foreign minister, Carlos Lopez, told Bogota’s La FM radio about the meeting and said that Uribe expressed “sympathy” for the Honduran regime headed by erstwhile Congress speaker Roberto Micheletti.
“In the framework of the process of facilitation for the Honduras situation, led by the president of Costa Rica, Oscar Arias, a Honduran commission was received informally,” the Colombian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
But the ministry stressed that the Colombian government “does not endorse the personal comments expressed by members of the Honduran commission ... regarding third countries.”
Lopez told La FM that he and his colleagues traveled to Bogota because they regard both Honduras and Colombia as “victims of common external aggressors, such as (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez.”
Chavez, Lopez said, “is a highly dangerous neighbor, who was on the verge of extending his model to Honduras.”
Zelaya, a wealthy rancher elected in 2005 on a center-right platform, later moved to the left, increasing the minimum wage by 60 percent and bringing Honduras into the Venezuela-led ALBA bloc.
When Zelaya announced plans for a non-binding referendum on creating an assembly to overhaul the Honduran Constitution, his political foes accused him of seeking to emulate the socialist Chavez, who this year persuaded Venezuelans to approve an amendment eliminating presidential term limits.
But in the case of Honduras, the proposed assembly would not be convened until well after Jan. 27, 2010, when Zelaya’s term ends, meaning that any constitutional revisions would apply only to his successors.
Despite ideological differences and periodic public spats, Chavez and the rightist Uribe have strived to keep bilateral relations on an even keel, but tensions are currently high over Bogota’s talks with Washington on U.S. use of Colombian military bases. EFE