Caracas: Venezuela stepped up its words of war with neighboring Colombia Monday, in moves seen as an effort by President Hugo Chavez to distract voters from domestic problems ahead of key September elections.
The escalating diplomatic row, sparked by Bogota`s allegations last week that Venezuela was harboring 1,500 Colombian rebels on its territory, had prompted Chavez to cancel a trip to Cuba citing the danger of "armed aggression" by Colombia, warning the United States to stay out of the crisis.
In his place Monday, Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez upon visiting Havana claimed Bogota`s accusations were a "foul, vulgar and offensive pretext to attack Venezuela."
Chavez meanwhile threatened to cut off oil supplies to the United States if it backed a Colombian attack, although the US State Department also made clear it was reiterating its stance that the United States "has no intention of engaging in military action against Venezuela."
Chavez broke off diplomatic relations with Bogota Thursday in response to charges by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe that the FARC guerrillas had set up bases inside Venezuela and were launching attacks from its territory.
Venezuela`s anti-American leftist president added on Sunday he had intelligence that "the possibility of an armed aggression against Venezuelan territory from Colombia" was higher than it has been "in 100 years."
Political experts pointed out, however, that the saber-rattling came just in time for the Venezuelan ruling party`s electoral campaign for legislative polls two months away.
Chavez, analyst Jose Vicente Carrasquero told AFP, was seeking to "excite the spirits of his supporters" while simultaneously trying to "divert attention from the internal situation in Venezuela to a possible international conflict."