The Guardian 26 January, 2005

Colombian provocation
upsets South American unity

At the very moment when the countries of South America were beginning the process of economic and political co-operation, a provocation engineered by elements of Colombia's police against Venezuela has injected discord into relations between these two neighbouring countries.

Colombian police, in collaboration with some Venezuelan soldiers who had been bribed, kidnapped a leader of Colombia's FARC revolutionary forces on Venezuelan territory. Their action is a violation of international law and a violation of Venezuelan sovereignty.

There had previously been several cordial meetings between Venezuelan President Chávez and President Uribe of Colombia during which friendly relations were being built up. While Venezuela and Colombia have different political orientations, the discussions had included preparations to establish a natural gas pipeline from Venezuela to Colombia which would also service some other South American countries. Venezuela has the largest natural gas reserves in the entire continent.

Referring to this growing unity, Hugo Chávez said in his regular TV broadcast — Hallo President — that "when these things happen, some international observers look askance, some don't like this, including some in Colombia and some here in Venezuela; for them it's a disaster … the war dogs, the hegemonic element in the Americas and the world don't like what they are seeing".

Chávez went on: "… all the South American Presidents signed the document giving birth to the South American Union of Nations in which Colombia and Venezuela will have a significant part to play. [This] does not sit well with our continent's hegemonic element. The oligarchies that have dominated these peoples, that have exploited these peoples, take a dim view of all this. They don't want us to unite."

Speaking of the kidnapping of the FARC leader Chávez appealed to the President of Colombia: "I think we should arm ourselves with wisdom, with patience, to prevent a situation which is the product, I'm sure, of a conspiracy of hegemonic elements opposed to integration".

President Chávez has offered to meet Colombia's President Uribe to resolve the matter. President Chávez has called on the Colombian President to discuss the crime that was committed and to offer apologies.

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