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Venezuela's Chávez: Relations with Colombia at risk

By Alfredo Rojas, El Universal

President Hugo Chávez pointed out Thursday that "for the sake of the good relations between the (Venezuelan) Government and the Colombian State" that country's government must clarify the origin of the presumed Colombian paramilitary captured in Caracas with official military credentials.

"We expect all cooperation from the Colombian government and authorities, but we have sufficient elements to doubt about the intelligence services and some sectors of the Armed Forces of Colombia," the president said as he opened the sessions of the National Defense Council in the Miraflores Presidential Palace.

Chávez commented that the group arrested in Caracas last Sunday had been militarily trained in Colombia and recalled how he once questioned a former Colombian conscript who had an identification card as professional soldier.

"We know that the current commander of the Colombian Army is and has proved to be an opponent to this government, and he has lied shamelessly," he said, referring to General Martín Orlando Carreńo.

Chávez added that Carreńo has accused the Venezuelan government of protecting the Colombian guerrilla movement. "He (once) sent the coordinates of the hiding place of the guerrillas in Venezuela, and when we checked, it turned out to be in Colombia's territory," Chávez said.

According to the Venezuelan president, many events have had place in the last five years that make him think that the performance of some Colombian institutions may not be transparent. They might be cooperating to attack Venezuela, "and this could bring very serious consequences," he said.

"We are defending the sovereignty of our territory against the presence of armed groups of any nature, either guerrilla or counter-guerrilla, either a regular army or a paramilitary group, either terrorists or whatever it is, and we have demonstrated it in several occasions," he added.

However, the most serious comment of the president was that the strongest attacks against his administration come from sectors that favor "an invasion to Venezuela." Despite the international connotations that he assigned to the case, Chávez has instructed State's intelligence forces "to pay a special attention to local accomplices."

"We cannot believe the hypothesis that a radical mad man brought (the paramilitaries), and left them here and went to Miami and that's it. There have to be complicity in the political and military worlds, which have continued to threaten the peace of the country," he underlined.

Directly accusing the dissident military officers who in October 2002 disowned the government, Chávez said that "this group of military traitors" has been recognized by some of the "detained terrorists."

"One colonel was there that night, and we have just discovered, but he escaped," Chávez admitted.

He announced that the measures to be implemented include providing all the checkpoints in the country with a book with the photographs of these "military traitors" who used "their uniform and impunity" to bring irregular groups into the Venezuelan territory. Translated by Edgardo Malaver

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