Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

Venezuela May Send Foreign Minister To Colombian Inauguration

Posted in News and Articles by politicalrisklatam on August 6, 2010

by Forrest Jones for The Wall Street Journal, August 6th, 2010.

CARACAS (Dow Jones)–Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro will likely attend the inauguration of Colombian President-Elect Juan Manuel Santos’s inauguration Saturday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Friday.

Venezuela and Colombia have been at odds over the last two weeks when Colombia accused its neighbor of harboring Colombian rebel groups, such as the FARC and ELN.

Venezuela broke off all diplomatic ties with Colombia due to the dispute, but appears to be offering an olive branch to the incoming administration by hinting at sending its foreign minister to the inauguration.

“It’s very likely Nicolas [Maduro] will be off for the transfer of power in the morning,” Chavez said on state-run television.

Chavez was flanked by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, who are helping to iron out the diplomatic spat between Chavez and Colombia’s outgoing President Alvaro Uribe.

The FARC and ELN are rebel military groups that finance themselves through supporting Colombia’s cocaine industry and kidnapping.

Chavez has long battled accusations of supporting the Colombian rebel groups, which Bogota says enjoy safety in Venezuelan territory.

Analysts have wondered why Colombia would level such a charge just weeks from Uribe’s departure.

Some say Uribe is playing bad cop so Santos can start fresh relations with Chavez. Or it could be argued that Uribe is leaving his mark on Colombian politics.

“He’s saying don’t celebrate just yet, Mr. Chavez,” said Peter Hakim, President Emeritus of Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based center for policy analysis in the Western Hemisphere. “He’s saying he’s not going to be a lame duck.”

Uribe has been one of Latin America’s biggest supporters of the U.S. while Chavez has been Washington’s biggest critic.

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