Monday, July 19, 2010

Colombia: Santos and Uribe split over Venezuela?

The already tense relations between Colombia and Venezuela have worsened due to allegations that Venezuela has “tolerated” the presence of guerillas from its western neighbors. These accusations have been strongly refuted by Venezuelan officials including President Hugo Chavez though Colombia will present their case this week during an extraordinary session of the Organization of American States permanent council.

The rebel rumors have not only exacerbated ties between the two countries but also may have exposed a rift between current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and president-elect Juan Manuel Santos. An editorial in the Economist said that Uribe is not pleased with Santos’ diplomatic tone of inclusion with the countries bordering Colombia. Uribe "could not brook any cozying up to his nemesis in the east" including Santos inviting Chavez to his inauguration next month. (That gesture that was considered yet ultimately rejected by Chavez in light of the guerilla allegations).

According to an article on the website of Colombian newsmagazine Semana, the “hypersensibility of the outgoing president and the independence of the incoming” leader has led to hostility between the two. Uribe reportedly believed that Santos’ conciliatory message could paint the Uribe regime as “warmongering and conflictive.” Though Santos served as defense minister under Uribe, the departing leader worries that Santos will modify the military-heavy “democratic security” policy:
(Uribe) has declared that the diplomatic strategy of Santos, which included his visits to several European capitals, qualifies as “cosmetic”, “silly”, and “mellifluous.” Uribe is displeased that foreign relations under Santos will not be an extension of the democratic security measures. Such a change irritates Uribe and he has told his closest advisors “we must defend the plan like lions.”
Earlier today Venezuelan vice president Elias Jagua claimed that he was willing to “normalize” relations with Colombia. That will be a tough task partly due to the apparent discord between Colombia’s main political leaders.

Image- Yvke Mundial
Online Sources- Xinhua, BBC News, Colombia Reports, El Tiempo,, BusinessWeek, El Espectador

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