On July 29, the leaders of the 12 countries belonging to the Union of the Southern Nations (Unasur) held an emergency meeting in Quito, Ecuador, to discuss the crisis between Venezuela and Colombia.
This was due to the actions of the Colombian ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyes. He called an urgent meeting of the member countries in Washington on July 22 to complain that Venezuela was harbouring terrorists and terrorist training camps on Venezuelan territory for the Colombian rebel groups the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe maintained that because of this, the terrorists were kidnapping and killing Colombian citizens.
I watched the video footage presented by Hoyes on national government TV, Channel 8. His presentation was alarming and extraordinary, showing photos supposedly of Venezuelan ministers with members of the FARC sitting at a table in the jungle.
The figures were obviously cut in a montage as the shadows of the sun were in a different position for each of the three individuals.
The jungle background could have been anywhere in Latin America. There was no source identification or dates or times on the photos.
Hoyes spoke for more than two hours, accusing Venezuelan government of all sorts of crimes, without any hard proof. The Venezuelan ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, made a vigorous and animated defence of his country, accusing the Colombian government of being the puppet of the United States.
Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro then made a whirlwind tour of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador to discuss a plan of action to prevent a war occurring on the continent. Maduro refuted the lies and untruths reported against his government.
“The solution is not more military bases, not more money for war, the solution has to be a plan for peace”, he told the July 28 Correo de Orinoco.
Venezuelan ambassador to the US Bernardo Alvarez said that for many years both the US and Colombia had been accusing Caracas of sheltering presumed terrorists on Venezuelan territory but without any proof.
“With Uribe, one never really knows what can happen, after the operation that he approved against the campsite of the FARC in Ecuador”, he said, referring to Colombia’s bombing of Ecuadoran territory in March 2008.
The cause of the problem is the continuing decades-old civil war in Colombia, the only armed struggle still taking place on the continent. Maduro is asking the Unasur countries for a negotiated solution to the Colombian civil war.
The Venezuelan government is taking the threats seriously. President Hugo Chavez cancelled his planned visit to Cuba for the annual July 26 celebrations of the Cuban Revolution.
Part of this concern also relates to a letter from an unknown source in Washington that warned Chavez of threats to his life. Chavez read out the letter at an address at the National Pantheon on July 24, celebrating 227 years since the birth of the liberator of Latin America, Simon Bolivar.
The anonymous author is credible because the same source had accurately warned Chavez in advance of many things that took place during the April coup of 2002. The letter in part said: “The preparation phase in the international community, with the help of Colombia, is in plain execution”, referring to the July 22 OAS session.
“In the United States, the execution phase is accelerating, together with a contention force, as they call it, towards Costa Rica with the pretext of fighting drug trafficking … There is an agreement between Colombia and the US with two objectives: one is Mauricio and the other is the overthrow of the government.”
Chavez explained that “Mauricio” is a codename for himself. “The military operation is going to happen”, the text warned. “They will be in charge of the frontier but don’t have the intention or the capacity to conduct operations inside the territory … those from the north will do it, but not directly in Caracas, they don’t dare to enter Caracas.
“They will hunt ‘Mauricio’ down outside Caracas, this is very important, I repeat, this is very important … At the same time they will try to neutralise part of the Armed Forces, they will try to make other units not to do anything, they will call on and incorporate retired military personnel to control the cities. In this way I am telling you, Mauricio, that you must take this information seriously.”
This international campaign began at the start of July, when US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton made a statement in Poland that it was “intolerable” that various countries, among them Venezuela, did not permit the development of “civilian groups”.
Uribe is making a last-ditch stand on behalf of his US masters before his term as president ends on August 7. He initially tried to get the Colombian Senate to allow him to run for a third term but the Constitutional Court disallowed it.
Colombian Communist Party activist Daniel Becerra said he believes there is a slight disagreement between Uribe and his successor, Juan Manuel Santos, both of whom are from the same party.
Santos is a representative of the business class and believes that the disruption of relations between Venezuela and Colombia is hurting Colombia economically. Colombia used to be Venezuela’s largest trading partner.
On July 29, Colombians in Venezuela demonstrated in front of their consulate to demand an end to the warlike attitude of Uribe. Spokesperson Carlos Tanus said they will demonstrate again on August 7 to demand a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The new US ambassador designated for Venezuela promised “unquenchable support for the defense of human rights and liberties” (code for supporting anti-democratic subversion) and to “advocate for just compensation for the companies from his country that have been expropriated” in Venezuela. No US companies have been expropriated, but some were bought at commercial rates.
Like Maduro, Colombian president-elect Santos has also been on a tour of Latin America, visiting President Cristina Kirchner of Argentina, Nestor Kirchner, general secretary of Unasur and President Alan Garcia of Peru.
The Colombian government declared it would send a delegate to the meeting of Unasur in Ecuador.
On July 22, Chavez announced the closure of the Venezuelan embassy in Bogata within 72 hours. Former Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia Gustavo Marques said that Hoyes, who was politically disqualified on account of corruption charges, was trying to provoke a debate about something that doesn’t exist.
“It is the same script written by Washington, without any basis or proof”, he told CCS Ciudad on July 26. “It is also absurd to transfer the burden of proof to Venezuela. It is the USA and Colombia who are obliged to demonstrate that their denunciations are true.”
“What is clear is that oil is fundamental to the imperialists. The US government needs to put its hand on our oil and because of that they feel obliged to invade, the same as they did in Iraq and they aim to do it in Iran, with the same pretext; a false positive.
“Nuclear arms did not exist in Iraq, neither are they in Iran. This is what they want to apply to Venezuela”, he added.
Marcela Maspero, national coordinator of the National Union of Workers, announced on July 27 that it would create a “Worker’s Front” to defend the sovereignty of the nation from the Colombian government.
Equally, it will confront the aims of economically powerful right-wing forces in Venezuela to generate chaos. “This is the opportunity they are waiting for” said Maspero. “It’s also not strange that in these moments some products of basic items of food are beginning to disappear. They increase the price of foods to generate chaos.’’