RealNews

Bogotá and Caracas tensions at crisis point

Trembling with fear, Juana points to a Venezuelan army helicopter thudding overhead, its down-draught peeling apart the dense jungle that blankets the no-man’s land between Colombia and Venezuela. “It was one of those,” says Juana, a Colombian peasant who fled across the Río del Oro river into Venezuela after, she claims, Venezuelan aircraft strafed two Colombian villages, dispersing warring rightwing and leftwing Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla factions. “They flew low, there were explosions, and the paramilitaries ran into the forest.” Juana and several hundred other refugees are witnesses to the latest and most acute case of mounting tension between Colombia’s pro-US government, led by Alvaro Uribe, and the militaristic leftwing Venezuelan administration of President Hugo Chávez. Conflicting official accounts of last month’s incident provide a backdrop for a summit meeting on Wednesday at which the two men – Mr Uribe, a workaholic, Mr Chávez a bombastic former paratrooper – will try to resolve their differences. But any accord may only paper over the cracks in the countries’ worsening relations. This would complicate Plan Colombia, the US-sponsored anti-narcotics and counter-insurgency programme, which would be dealt a blow if guerrillas and coca crops continued to seep out of Colombia into neighbouring countries. Full Story

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