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Turn to diplomacy in dispute



Published: Tue, January 25, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Miami Herald: A sries of blunders has resulted in an undiplomatic row between Colombia and Venezuela. Fortunately, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has offered to mediate, and both nations are showing a willingness resolve their differences. Now is the time to turn to diplomacy and tone down the rhetoric.

It wasn't diplomatic for the Colombian government to pay Venezuelan bounty hunters to grab Rodrigo Granda, a FARC guerrilla leader, and bring him across the border so that he could be arrested in Colombia last month.

But it has been far more destabilizing and patently offensive for the Venezuelan government to harbor -- if not materially support -- members of guerrilla groups that have been terrorizing Colombia for decades.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez withdrew his country's ambassador from Bogota and froze all trade deals with Colombia after the Colombian defense minister two weeks ago admitted to paying the bounty hunters. Chavez also demanded an apology from Colombian President Alvaro Uribe for violating Venezuela's sovereignty.

Trampled sovereignty

But Chavez is the last one who should be complaining about trampled sovereignty. Despite the president's denials that his government knew of Granda's presence, the guerrilla had obtained Venezuelan citizenship under his own name and had participated in a government-supported "People's Bolivarian Congress" only days before he was whisked away from Caracas. Other well-known Colombian guerrillas have been invited to official events, including one who spoke to Venezuela's National Assembly in 2000.

Evidence also suggests that the FARC has two major camps inside Venezuela. Today more than ever, any country that knowingly offers a safe haven for terrorists or turns a blind eye to their presence is inviting trouble.

Colombia has reason to worry, as do other Latin American nations where Chavez has aided radical leftist groups.




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