Colombia raps Venezuela over FARC rebel "insult"
Bogota: Colombia on Wednesday demanded Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez`s government clarify whether it tolerated support for terrorist organisations after Colombia`s leftist rebels were lauded at a forum in Caracas.
The diplomatic complaint came as the Andean neighbours tussle in a growing dispute that has battered their USD 7 billion in annual bilateral trade and fuelled concerns about the feud spilling over into a violent border incident.
At a meeting of left-wing groups called the Continental Bolivarian Coordinator, a video message was broadcast from FARC commander Alfonso Cano, leader of Colombia`s largest Marxist guerrilla movement. It was not clear whether Chavez officials attended or supported the event.
Colombia has in the past complained Chavez is politically tolerant of the FARC, which is labelled a terrorist organisation by the United States and Europe. Bogota says two top FARC commanders have taken refuge in Venezuela.
"Colombia`s government and people consider it an insult to democracy and human rights that the Continental Bolivarian Coordinator recognised the FARC," the Foreign Ministry said.
"Venezuela should clarify for the international community whether it recognises, approves or tolerates movements or parties who support terrorism," its statement said.
Chavez, a fierce US foe, last year welcomed a FARC commander at his presidential palace as part of his involvement in efforts to free rebel hostages. But he rejects US and Colombia claims he provides shelter or support to the FARC.
The socialist leader recently has ramped up his rhetoric against Bogota with talk of war and ordered Colombian imports cut to protest Colombia`s plan to allow US troops more access to its bases to fight druglords and guerrillas.
In the latest incidents, Venezuelan troops have dynamited makeshift bridges across the border because they said the structures were used by smugglers. But Colombia denounced the destruction before the United Nations.
Chavez says the base plan is a pretext for an aggression against his oil-exporting nation. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe counters it is an extension of existing US cooperation to end Colombia`s long war fuelled by the drug trade.
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