International and Local Support as Venezuela Severs Diplomatic Relations with Colombia

Source: Venezuela Analysis

Following Colombian accusations before the Organisation of American States (OAS) yesterday that Venezuela is “protecting” its guerrillas, Chavez announced that Venezuela would break off diplomatic relations with Colombia and withdraw its ambassador. Venezuelan institutions and international social organisations have expressed their support for Venezuela, while the U.S has supported Colombia’s proposal to the OAS.

President Hugo Chavez and various other government leaders have justified the move as defending Venezuela’s “dignity” in the face of “constant aggressions and false accusations” by Colombia against Venezuela.

“This government of Mr [Alvaro] Uribe has spent eight years attacking and lying and creating ‘false positives’ against Venezuela in order to justify the unjustifiable,” Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said. Uribe will be replaced by President-elect Juan Manuel Santos on 7 August.

Yesterday afternoon the Venezuelan executive gave its ambassador in Colombia, Gustavo Marquez, and his staff 72 hours to return to Caracas.

Chavez also requested an extraordinary meeting of the political council of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in order to denounce the Colombian government’s “aggression”.

Maduro supported the call, saying a “South American response to the aggression” was necessary.

In response to Venezuela’s request, early this morning Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa who is also provisional president of UNASUR, announced he would call a meeting of the regional organisation in order to mediate the Venezuelan-Colombian conflict.

“The Venezuelan government is concentrating its efforts in the union of South America, in creating …trade, social, economic and defence based unity of South America,” Vice president Elias Jaua said to the press this morning.

Jaua called on the Venezuelan people to “strengthen the union with the Colombian people in order to keep struggling for peace and unity of the continent.”

The freezing of relations wouldn’t affect food supply in Venezuela, said Jorge Perez, professor of political economy at the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), He said that food to be imported for the state food markets of Mercal and Pdval is already being processed to come from other Latin American countries.

Perez explained that ever since the freezing of commercial relations between Venezuela and Colombia last year following Colombia’s agreement to install seven U.S bases in its territory, the government has been progressively substituting its imports from Colombian transnationals by signing agreements with countries such as Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and China, to import products like meat, milk, cheese, and rice.

Also, both Reuters and the Venezuelan government owned AVN, reported that the situation on the main Venezuela/Colombia border crossings was “normal”, with the crossings remaining open and vehicles and people passing through as usual.

Support for the Venezuelan government’s actions

YVKE Mundial and AVN report that some Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) workers protested this morning in Caracas in order to show their support for the decision of the government to break diplomatic relations with Colombia.

One of the protestors, Karina Soler, told press, “We’re not enemies of the Colombian people, but we declare ourselves fierce enemies of the narco-government of Uribe.”

Jaua said the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) was organising a series of mobilisations along the border with Colombia for this weekend. On Saturday afternoon it is planning a mobilisation in Apure, towards the centre of the border, then in Tachira, where the main border crossing is, on Sunday, and on 31 July, heading towards the south, in Amazonas.

Also yesterday a coalition of  U.S based human rights, social justice, civil society organisations and the TransAfrica Forum published two letters criticising the outgoing government of Colombia for “continuing a pattern of falsely accusing Venezuela of having links to the insurgent groups FARC and ELN”.

The letters were addressed to Jose Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the OAS and the coalition said it will continue collecting signatures and will also submit the letter to UNASUR and to incoming president-elect Santos on the day of his inauguration, 7 August.

Various other Venezuelan public institutions and organisations have also expressed their support for the measures taking by the Venezuelan executive, including the heads of; the National Assembly, the Supreme Court, the National Bolivarian Armed Forces, the Attorney General, the National Electoral Council, the PSUV youth, the National Union of Workers (Unete), the Socialist Front of Petroleum Workers (FSTP), the Electoral Movement of the People (MEP), and the Unionists of Latin American and the Caribbean, who are currently in Venezuela for a continent wide union conference.

Marcela Maspero, national coordinator of Unete, said, “In the face of any attempt by Colombia or any other country, to obstruct the revolution [in Venezuela], the working class will come out bravely to defend the process and the country.”

Likewise, Victor Mendibil, from the Unionists of Latin America and the Caribbean and also the Workers Central of Argentina (CTA), said, “Once again the Colombian government  is attacking the progressive government of Venezuela and accusing it internationally of having and protecting…Colombian guerrillas. That’s not possible, because the government here is a proper one that always acts according to the law.”

Further, according to Alfonso Velasquez of the Unified Central of Workers of Colombia (CUT), the Colombian government needs to leave the Venezuelan government alone and “dedicate” itself to providing security for Colombians. “Just last year, over 2,940 union and social leaders in Colombia were killed due to the inefficiency of the government in relation to security,” he said.

U.S support for Colombia

Meanwhile, El Universal reports that the U.S has announced that it would support the creation of an international mission to verify if the FARC do have camps in Venezuelan territory, something Colombia requested when it went to the OAS yesterday.

US State department spokesperson Phillip Crowley said he supported Colombia’s proposal and such a mission should visit and examine the supposed camps within a month.

“There should be an investigation. We think Venezuela has the responsibility to respond swiftly to the important information presented yesterday by Colombia,” he said.

OAS norms state that such a commission can only be formed with the permission of the country involved.

Maduro concluded that the only way diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Colombia could be restored was with “absolute respect and when they cease the political and media aggressions against [Venezuela].”

Venezuela had already suspended bilateral trade ties mid last year to protest the agreement between the U.S and Colombia to install seven U.S military bases in Colombian territory.

Then last week the outgoing Colombian government accused Venezuela of purposefully tolerating the presence of Colombian guerrilla “terrorists” in its territory. Venezuela’s initial response was that such accusations were part of a media “defamation” campaign.