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Colombian Rebel's Speech Sparks Spat

Diplomacy: Guerrilla delivers talk on floor of Venezuela's congress. Bogota recalls its envoy.

November 25, 2000|From Associated Press

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia recalled its ambassador from Venezuela "for consultation" Friday, two days after a Colombian guerrilla leader gave a speech on the floor of the Venezuelan congress.

The decision reflects rising frictions between the two Andean countries over Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's alleged sympathy for Colombian insurgents and his criticism of Plan Colombia--a U.S.-backed anti-drug plan being carried out by Colombian President Andres Pastrana.

In a statement, Colombia's Foreign Ministry said it was recalling Ambassador German Bula to "evaluate the current state of relations between the two countries."

The left-leaning Chavez has said Pastrana's plan, backed by $1.3 billion in mostly military assistance from the United States, will drive refugees, guerrillas and drug traffickers into his and other neighboring countries.

On Wednesday, Olga Marin, a spokeswoman for the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, addressed a daylong forum about Plan Colombia held on the floor of Venezuela's National Assembly.

The forum was part of a meeting of a Latin America-wide parliamentary group. It was not an official session of Venezuela's legislature.

Chavez maintains that he is neutral in Colombia's fighting, although a former intelligence chief accused him this year of funneling arms to the FARC.

On Friday, a senior FARC commander rejected allegations by Mexico's attorney general that the rebels traded cocaine to a powerful Mexican drug cartel in return for cash and weapons.

"This is nothing but a montage by Colombian military intelligence. . . . It's not true," FARC commander Raul Reyes said in a phone interview.

Mexico's attorney general's office said it had uncovered a cocaine-for-arms deal linking the FARC to the Tijuana-based Arellano Felix brothers' organization, one of Mexico's largest and most violent gangs.

The FARC acknowledges that it taxes coca production in huge swaths of southern Colombia but denies that it smuggles the drugs abroad. U.S. officials doubt this claim. Colombia produces most of the world's cocaine.

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