Venezuela beefs up troops in Colombia border

Venezuela said it beefed up its troop presence along the border with Colombia.

Venezuela beefs up troops in Colombia border

 

Venezuela said it beefed up its troop presence along the border with Colombia as its neighbor's incoming finance minister vowed on Monday to restore trade between the feuding Andean nations.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broke off diplomatic ties with Colombia last week after Colombia accused Chavez of support to guerilas which leftist country has strongly rejected.

Chavez called the charges a "hoax" and an excuse for Colombia to launch a U.S.-backed invasion he says would start a "100-year war."

The United States on Monday said it had no intention of taking military action against Venezuela. Venezuela met with United Nations' Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to explain its position.

About 1,000 National Guard soldiers arrived in the border region over the weekend and were reinforcing posts along the 1,375-mile (2,200-km) long frontier, said Franklin Marquez, a regional commander for the National Guard.

"We have a reinforcement of 980 to 1,000 troops for the protection of the border, but there are no unusual operations; we are staying on alert," Marquez said.

The border region has remained calm and most analysts believe a military clash is unlikely between the nations.

Chavez threatened on Sunday to cut off Venezuela's oil supplies to the United States if Colombia attacks.

Border trade hit

Jose Rozo, the president of a business group in the border state of Tachira, said cross-border trade in several frontier towns had plunged by about 60 percent in the past three days.

"A rise in troops levels on the border isn't justified; it is only hurting the residents here," said Cesar Perez Vivas, the opposition governor of Tachira. "We have reports that 20,000 jobs have been lost because of this breaking of ties with Colombia."

Outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe triggered the latest spat with Chavez when he accused him of allowing outlawed Colombian guerrillas to operate bases inside Venezuelan territory. Colombia presented photos, videos and maps to the Organization of American States to back its charges.

President-elect Juan Manuel Santos will take over from Uribe on Aug. 7 and is expected to work to salvage trade and diplomatic ties, although he shares the current president's conservative views and suspicion of Chavez.

Uribe, at Santos' request, replaced Colombia's military chief Fredy Padilla with Admiral Edgar Celis on Monday.

Colombia's trade ministry said Bogota was studying ways to help affected areas, including making requirements for investing in free trade zones in four frontier states more flexible, and temporarily reducing the IVA tax.

Bilateral trade with Colombia, once at $7 billion annually, has plummeted since Chavez ordered a freeze on trade last year to protest a deal allowing U.S. forces to use Colombian bases.

Colombia's central bank estimates that exports to Venezuela will fall to $1.2 billion this year from $4 billion in 2009 and more than $6 billion in 2008.

Reuters

 

Last Mod: 27 Temmuz 2010, 17:45
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