Mérida, May 7th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In response to the Colombian government’s request that international political institutions assist in the capture of Colombian guerrilla troops who are allegedly in Venezuelan territory, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry called the request "absolutely out of place," arguing that the conflict with the guerrillas is exclusively a Colombian issue.
The diplomatic exchange follows the fatal crash of a Venezuelan military helicopter that was patrolling the border with Colombia on Sunday, in which seventeen soldiers died. Venezuelan authorities are still investigating the cause of the crash.
On Sunday, Colombian President Álvaro Uribe expressed his condolences to Venezuela for the soldiers’ deaths. Then, Uribe reiterated his request to Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez for the capture of insurgents from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who fled into Venezuelan territory after killing eight Colombian troops in a battle last week, according to Uribe.
Uribe had originally issued the request last Wednesday, and the Foreign Relations Ministry had replied that insurgents caught in Venezuelan territory "will be confronted with all the possible force of Venezuelan authorities."
Chávez had added that Venezuela "will not permit any armed incursion, wherever it comes from, to violate Venezuelan sovereignty." This was a warning to the Colombian military not to launch attacks outside its borders, as it did last year by bombarding a FARC encampment in Ecuador, sparking a week-long regional diplomatic crisis.
On Sunday, Uribe also requested that the Organization of American States (OAS), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), the Río Group, and other regional political institutions become involved in the capture of the guerrillas.
In an official statement on Monday, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry rejected the call for international institutions to intervene. "We consider any call to international and regional organizations that could involve Venezuela in this internal conflict [of Colombia] absolutely out of place," stated the Ministry.
"The fundamental reasons for the Colombian conflict, of which the Venezuelan people have historically been victims, reside exclusively in Colombia and must be resolved by the Colombians," the statement continued. "It constitutes an error to unload responsibilities onto the people and the authorities of Venezuela, so that they assume the costs of a confrontation that is foreign to their reality."
The statement concluded, "[We reiterate] the willingness of the government of the people of Venezuela to participate… in any initiative that has the sincere purpose of seeking peace."
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan immigration service turned over five Colombian guerrillas from the National Liberation Army (ELN) to Colombian authorities on Sunday. The insurgents, including a regional military and finance chief for the ELN, were caught without proper documentation and wearing Colombian military clothing, according to EFE.
Venezuela has consistently supported a peaceful humanitarian accord to bring an end to Colombia’s five decade-old conflict. Uribe invited Chávez to negotiate hostage releases in 2007, then took Chávez out of the process. In early 2008, Chávez negotiated the unilateral release of five FARC hostages.