Venezuela cuts ties with Colombia
CARACAS — President Hugo Chávez severed Venezuela’s diplomatic relations with Colombia yesterday over allegations that he harbors guerrillas, and he warned that his neighbor’s leader could attempt to provoke a war.
Chávez said he was forced to break off all relations because Colombian officials contend that he has failed to act against leftist rebels who allegedly have taken shelter in Venezuelan territory.
He acted moments after Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos of Colombia presented a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington with photos, videos, witness testimony, and maps of what he said were rebel camps inside Venezuela and challenged Venezuelan officials to let independent observers visit them.
In Washington, Hoyos said roughly 1,500 rebels are hiding in Venezuela, and he showed fellow diplomats numerous aerial photographs of what he identified as rebel camps.
Hoyos said the government of President Álvaro Uribe has repeatedly asked for Venezuela’s cooperation to prevent guerrillas from slipping over the porous 1,400-mile border.
“We have the right to demand that Venezuela doesn’t hide those wanted by Colombia,’’ Hoyos said, urging the OAS to investigate Colombia’s assertions.
He insisted that several rebel leaders are hiding in Venezuela.
Chávez’s envoy, Roy Chaderton, did not respond to the challenge to allow visits to the camp sites and said the photographs don’t provide solid evidence of a guerrilla presence.