Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared on Sunday that his country is prepared to defend itself against a possible act of aggression from Colombia or the United States, countries which recently signed a military pact that will allow the US to use Colombian bases to increase its military and intelligence operations across Latin America.
Chavez called on the commanders of the Venezuelan Armed Forces to “lose no time; we are going to form militias of revolutionary students, workers, women, everyone ready to defend this sacred homeland.”
“Don’t make the mistake, President Obama, of ordering an overt aggression against Venezuela utilizing Colombia,” said Chavez. “In Venezuela we are ready for anything, and Venezuela will never, never be a Yankee colony again,” Chavez declared on his weekly television talk show.
If the US and Colombia start a war with Venezuela, Chavez warned, “It would be the start of a hundred year war, and this war would extend across this entire continent.”
The best way to avoid war, Chavez said, is to prepare for it. “If we lived in a world where the most powerful countries respected the least powerful ones and were ruled by human principles and values, then we could dedicate ourselves to anything other than war,” the president explained.
Colombia and the US signed a deal on October 30th that will expand the US military presence on seven Colombian air, naval, and army bases, grant US personnel diplomatic immunity for crimes committed in Colombia, and facilitate the movement of the US military throughout the country.
US and Colombian government officials sustain that the deal will be used only for fighting drug trafficking and insurgents in Colombia. However, official financial documents of the U.S. Air Force say the bases will allow the U.S. to conduct “full spectrum operations throughout South America” to deal with “terrorist insurgencies, anti-US governments, endemic poverty and recurring natural disasters,” conduct “Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), improve global reach… and expand expeditionary warfare capability.”
On Sunday, Chavez said that as a result of the deal, “The government of Colombia is no longer in Bogota, it is in the United States… Colombia handed itself over. Not the people of Colombia, the government of Colombia, the Colombian oligarchy.”
Colombian and US Response
In response, the office of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe released an official statement which said, “Colombia has not made nor will it make any gesture of war toward the international community… The only interest that motivates us is to overcome narco-terrorism that for so many years has battered Colombians.”
Further, Colombia called Chavez’s declarations “threats of war” and said it would issue complaints in the Organization of American States and the United Nations Security Council. “Colombia maintains its willingness for frank dialogue, the path of understanding and the norms of international law,” the statement asserted.
On Tuesday, the US State Department said the conflict between Venezuela and Colombia does not have to do with the United States, and urged both sides to engage in dialogue. “We support Colombia’s call for dialogue between Venezuela and Colombia to overcome recent tensions in the relationship,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN.
In response, Venezuela said it is prepared to debate the issue with Colombia in any multilateral organization. A Foreign Relations Ministry statement called Colombia’s declarations of peace “hypocritical” and “immoral” because Colombia is the only country in South America to have recently carried out an attack on foreign soil, when it raided a guerrilla encampment in Ecuador on March 1st 2008, setting off a regional political crisis.
Meanwhile, several governments across the region, including those Nicaragua and Brazil, expressed their deep concern over the growing tensions resulting from the US-Colombia military deal, and also called for dialogue.
Bolivian President Evo Morales called for an emergency meeting of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) as well as the nine-member ALBA regional trade bloc “to debate and find solutions among all the countries.”
Morales said the recent US military pact with Colombia is to South America what the U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay is to Cuba. He suggested the issue of foreign bases on South American soil be put to a continent-wide vote. “If the people say no, the governments must bring an end to this type of treaty,” said Morales.
On Monday, Bolivian Vice President Alvaro GarcÃa said, “The US presence in Colombia is an invasion of the continent… we have to prepare ourselves in the face of the implication of a US military invasion.”
Bolivia and Venezuela are two of the South American countries which have strongly challenged Washington’s military and economic hegemony in the region, and advocated socialism as an alternative to capitalism.
After news of the pending US-Colombian military deal became public in July, Venezuela cut off diplomatic relations with Colombia and vowed to replace Colombian imports. Since then, bilateral trade has declined by half. Tensions flared when two Colombian intelligence agents were arrested in Venezuela for allegedly spying, and two Venezuelan National Guardsmen as well as a group of suspected Colombian paramilitaries were murdered near the Colombian border.
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This post was written by James Suggett