Chavez-Uribe spat deepens

Colombian president attacks Venezuela leader's leftist agenda after ties "frozen".

     Chavez, right, says commercial ties which the
    leaders fostered are now under threat [AFP]

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    "Venezuela is going down a dangerous road, but I have faith that the people of Venezuela will see what [Chavez] is trying to do and remove him from office in the next election - if there ever is one"

    Tom Dougherty, Atlanta, USA

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    Chavez's remarks came after Uribe dropped him as mediator between Bogota and Farc (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels over a hostage swap.


    Uribe on Sunday confirmed ending Chavez's role because the Venezuelan leader had ignored his demand not to speak directly with Colombian generals about the hostages.


    'Terrorist government'


    "Your words, your positions, suggest you are not interested in peace in Colombia, but rather in Colombia becoming the victim of a terrorist government of the Farc," he said.


    Uribe last week ended Chavez's role as mediator in talks with Farc rebels over releasing hostages taken during Colombia's civil war, and accused him of overstepping his limits and disclosing details of it to the public.

    Chavez accused Uribe of lying on Sunday.
    "They issued a statement yesterday filled with lies, and that is serious, very serious. President Uribe is lying, and he's lying in a shameless way."
    For months, Chavez had sought to persuade Farc rebels to release about 50 hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian politician, and three US defence contractors held for years in secret jungle camps.
    Commercial ties
    Chavez also warned his cabinet ministers they had to be "on alert" over commercial ties with Colombia, Venezuela's second-largest trading partner.
    "Everyone should be on alert with respect to Colombia," he said. "The companies that Colombians have here, the companies we have over there, commercial relations - all of that will be damaged."
    He made a similar threat this month about Spanish businesses after a diplomatic spat caused by Spanish King Juan Carlos telling Chavez to "shut up" during a summit in Chile.
    He also briefly cut commercial ties with Colombia in 2005 after bounty hunters snatched a Colombian guerrilla from Venezuelan soil without consulting the Chavez government, sparking the worst diplomatic flap between the countries in years then.
    'Gringo pressure'
    Although the two have co-operated on energy projects and fostering commercial ties, the conservative pro-Washington Uribe and the leftist anti-US Chavez have had their diplomatic spats.

    Uribe accused Chavez of promoting a
    leftist agenda across Latin America [AFP]

    Chavez has frequently criticised Colombia's participation in the US-backed Plan Colombia counter-narcotics programme, which he has described as Washington's effort to maintain a military presence in Latin America.
    "I'm sure he [Uribe] didn't want to continue in the [hostage negotiation] process; the gringos pressure him a lot," Chavez said, using slang to refer to Americans.

    Treason charge


    Chavez also dropped Piedad Cordoba, a Colombian senator and a dialogue facilitator, from the negotiations with Farc.


    Cordoba was severely criticised within the government for secretly meeting rebel commanders Ivan Marquez and Rodrigo Granda who were negotiating the swap.


    She said on Sunday the Colombian Supreme Court was investigating her for treason.


    "They notified me yesterday; I am being investigated for treason and collusion," she told Radio Caracol from Caracas.


    Cordoba did not say if the charges against her were related to her work as mediator or to unrelated allegations.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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