Venezuelan Prez meets Colombia, Honduras heads

Hugo Chavez was in Colombia to meet Juan Manuel Santos and Porfirio Lobo.

Last Updated: Apr 10, 2011, 09:01 AM IST

Cartagena: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was in Colombia on Saturday to meet President Juan Manuel Santos, and Honduran leader Porfirio Lobo, with trade and smoothing ties with the Central American country topping the agenda.

The leftist Chavez, a fierce critic of US policy, has a solid practical relationship with Santos, a former defence chief and one of Washington`s closest allies in South America. Santos has worked to improve trade with its oil-producing neighbour, despite their policy disagreements.

Lobo arrived at the event to discuss his country`s return to the Organization of American States (OAS) after it was kicked out following a coup that toppled leftist president Manuel Zelaya in June 2009.

Lobo was elected President in November 2009, amid a political impasse between the de facto government that followed the coup and Zelaya, who was supported by Chavez and had taken refuge in the Brazilian embassy to press for his return to office.

Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay refused to acknowledge the legality of the Honduran vote.

Zelaya is currently in exile in the Dominican Republic, and will not return to Honduras until he is guaranteed immunity from legal action. His return is a condition for the OAS to re-admit Honduras.

It is the third time that Chavez and Santos have met since ties between the neighbours were restored after they were severed under Colombia`s former president, Alvaro Uribe.

Since then Colombia and Venezuela have signed agreements to improve security and cooperation along their common border.

The Chavez-Santos meeting focused on increasing trade and cooperation in the fight against illegal drug trafficking.

As a sign of good faith, Santos earlier announced that he would extradite Venezuelan drug lord Walid Makled to his home country, and not the United States where he is also wanted on criminal charges.

Makled, who claims he had support from Venezuelan officials, was arrested in August 2010 in Colombia near the border with Venezuela.

Bureau Report