CARACAS, Venezuela – President Hugo Chavez severed Venezuela’s diplomatic relations with Colombia on Thursday over claims he harbors guerrillas.
Chavez said he was forced to break off all relations because Colombian officials claim he has failed to move against leftist rebels who allegedly have taken shelter in Venezuelan territory.
Chavez acted moments after Colombian Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos presented a meeting of the Organization of American States in Washington with photos, videos, witness testimony and maps of what he said were rebel camps inside Venezuela and challenged Venezuelan officials to let independent observers visit them.
In Washington, Hoyos said that roughly 1,500 rebels are hiding out in Venezuela and he showed fellow diplomats numerous aerial photographs of what he identified as rebel camps on Venezuelan territory.
Hoyos said that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s government has repeatedly asked for Venezuela’s cooperation to prevent guerrillas from slipping over the 1,400-mile border that separates the two countries. He insisted that several rebel leaders are hiding out in Venezuela.
“We have the right to demand that Venezuela doesn’t hide those wanted by Colombia,” Hoyos said, urging the OAS to investigate Colombia’s claims.