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Colombia: "Hugo Chávez is a continental danger"

By Roberto Giusti, El Universal

Son of President Laureano Gómez, brother of the assassinated leader Álvaro Gómez Hurtado and a member of the most ancient conservative caste of the old Colombian parties, Senator Enrique Gómez Hurtado has jumped to the ring to challenge Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez by proposing the Congress of his country to approve an agreement to apply the Inter-American Democratic Charter on Venezuela.

Q.: The pro-government majority in Venezuela's National Assembly voted to reject the agreement adopted in the Colombian Senate. The group says that you "try to satisfy the demands of war-oriented (supporters) of President (George W.) Bush. Tarek William Saab, president of the Foreign Affairs Committee, even argued that the document was not well written because it had been translated from English.

A.: I think that is all part of the Chávez discourse, which he unjustly calls Bolivarian. Poor Simón Bolívar, whose name is used for those matters. Everything that opposes Mr. Chávez' interests turns out to be "U.S. imperialism". In other words, we have no right to have an opinion on anything because if Mr. Chávez does not like it, then we are slaves of imperialism. Q.: The Venezuelan lawmaking body also ordered the Defense Committee to conduct an investigation on an alleged arms escalation begun by the government of (Colombian President Álvaro) Uribe.

A.: It would be interesting to make that investigation because the truth about those allegations would be revealed. Colombia recently acquired tanks that are no longer used in Europe. It was the first time in history that Colombia bought this type of armament. The rest of the countries, including Venezuela, have always had it. If you analyze it according to any index - population, gross domestic product, percentage in the budget - the expenses of Colombia's Armed Forces are, proportionally, the lowest in Latin America. A serious investigation would demonstrate the contrary of those allegations. Q.: Those allegations include "the penetration into Venezuelan territory of irregular (paramilitary) groups associated to powerful factors," especially conservatives sectors, including you.

A.: I do not know what they mean. But what does happen is the rather ample infiltration by the guerrillas. After committing their crimes, they cross the border and, in many cases, get a very friendly reception (in Venezuela). There are also people whose fundamental instrument of political action is violence. Violence is a very contagious illness, and the industry of kidnapping is being contaminated to Venezuela. Logically, as people do not like to be kidnapped or killed, they find ways to defend themselves when the institutions cannot or do not want to defend them. Q.: Then are paramilitary operations justified in Venezuela?

A.: The so-called self-defense groups are also criminals, but they end up making some sense because of the lack of public forces. In Colombia, this phenomenon has been actively fought against, but it remains a very serious problem. The government is trying to negotiate, but it is very complicated to talk with the consequences when you do not do the same with the causes. All of this is a result of accepting violence as a valid instrument for political activity. Q.: You have said that the Venezuelan government friendly receives the Colombian guerrilla. Does it mean that Chávez makes it possible for the Colombian guerrillas to finance their war against the Colombian State through drug trafficking, extortion and kidnapping in Venezuela?

A.: I do not think it is necessary because the Colombian violence is heavily funded and has much more resources than the State. They only need a field to act. Some time ago, the armies of the two countries were proposed to work together because drug trafficking is universal and the killers cross the border without any respect and use (Venezuela) as a refuge to commit their crimes. The initiative is still to be coordinated because it is very difficult to come to terms with the Chávez administration, but without that coordination, the phenomenon will persist. Q.: Does Chávez support subversives and criminals?

A.: I am not saying that he is supporting them, but anyway the necessary coordination has not occurred and the phenomenon persists. Q.: How does that lack of coordination impact on the Colombian conflict?

A.: We have been for years in this war, with terrible consequences. The situation is different in the Peruvian border because coordination exists with that country. The same happens with Ecuador. With Venezuela there is no coordination and the consequences are visible. But I would not like to exaggerate my evaluation of this issue or to ponder whether they are caused intentionally or by inefficiency. Q.: Do you think that President Chávez is ideologically and politically closer to President Uribe than to (guerrilla leader) Tiro Fijo?

A.: They are involved in this stuff of the Bolivarian revolution, which we do not clearly know what it is. It seems to be aimed at creating an imbalance in the democratic life of the countries of the continent by creating resistance movements. We have already seen interesting circumstances in Brazil, and Mr. Chávez wants to swim in a Pacific beach of Bolivia. A string of conflictive situations are being stimulated, using the immense resources produced by the oil industry, which do not go to the Venezuelan people by to the free decision of the president.

Q.: In other words, Chávez is becoming a factor of regional destabilization trying to disturb the geopolitical balance.

A.: I just repeat the words of the president, who said he is working on that.

Translated by Edgardo Malaver

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