By Jeremy Morgan
Latin American Herald Tribune staff
CARACAS – The government gave out strong signals Wednesday that it was not about to soften the tone in President Hugo Chávez’s latest confrontation with Colombia, an impasse created by news that weapons found in the possession of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) were originally supplied to the Venezuelan military.
Chávez called in the foreign media to accuse Colombian President Álvaro Uribe’s government of trying to “blackmail” him over the origin of the Swedish anti-tank weapons in question. This was a “dirty weapon” in itself, he said in what was seen as an attempt to draw a parallel with the rockets and launchers themselves.
It was no coincidence, he claimed, that the accusation that the arms had somehow made their way from Venezuela to the FARC “precisely one day, some hours after, we had begun to raise our voice against the installation of military bases" – of which, he added, there had originally been three and now there were seven.
This was taken to be a reference to an agreement recently announced by Uribe under which United States military forces will be allowed to use bases in Colombia. Chávez, whose frequently virulent outbursts against Washington have become legion over the years, has condemned this accord as a threat to stability and peace in the region.
He was not about to let upon this issue, either. “We feel threatened by this decision,” he declared. Chávez has also claimed that Venezuela would be the first and perhaps primary target of any action launched from the bases.
National Assembly Deputy Roy Daza, a high-ranking member of the president’s ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) who heads the foreign policy committee at the legislature, also took up the cudgels in the verbal battle with Bogotá. Rather than “rectify” its claims, Colombia had toughened its “position of attacks and aggression” against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, he declared.
As to any suggestión by Uribe of a link between Chávez or Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa with the FARC, Daza said that were the Colombian leader to go with this claim to an international court, “he will simply be more isolated before the world than he already is.”
Uribe, he continued, would not be able to persuade the world as to the reasons why his government, the Colombian army, the police and “with all the financial technology of the United States” had not been able to stop Colombia being the leading producer of drugs in the world.
Daza declined comment on continuous speculation that Uribe will seek a reform of the Colombian constitution in order to seek a third successive term as president. This, he explained, was a matter for the Colombians in which Venezuelans should not get involved.
Asked whether a second re-election of Uribe would be “the most convenient thing” for South America, Daza gave a similar answer. Venezuela was very conscious of its rights when other countries interfered in its internal affairs, he added.
Whether or not the Colombian government’s allegations about the anti-tank materiel had anything to do with plans to try to get Uribe re-elected a second time was a “problem for that country,” he said.
Sweden has also asked Venezuela for an explanation of how the weapons got into the FARC’s hands. Caracas has responded that it will provide information on this in its own time, in effect telling Stockholm that it’ll have to wait.