Saturday, January 26, 2008
Not entirely surprisingly, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday said that the United States was plotting with the government of Colombia to attack his country. On the same day that Colombia hosted U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and a group of U.S. lawmakers, Chavez accused Colombia, Venezuela's western neighbor, of conspiring against him, according to the Reuters international news service. "I accuse the government of Colombia of plotting a conspiracy, acting as a pawn of the North American empire, of plotting a military provocation against Venezuela," Chavez told reporters in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital. More likely, Chavez was venting outrage against the reason for Rice's visit — a pending free trade deal between the United States and Colombia. Chavez has gone off the handle before — remember when he called President Bush the "devil" at the United Nations last year and when the Spanish king told him to "shut up" at a conference in Europe? Tense relations between Colombia and Venezuela sank to a new low last year after Colombian President Alvaro Uribe kicked Chavez out of negotiations with Colombian rebel groups for the release of hostages, and Venezuela withdrew its ambassador. Chavez later was able to negotiate the release of two hostages held by FARC — Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia — on his own. Chavez is a close ally of Fidel Castro in Cuba, which has no diplomatic relations with the United States.