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Chavez leaves door open for Santos to rebuild relations

07-26-2010 12:49 BJT

by Luis Fernando Moreno, Valentina Lopera

BOGOTA, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has left a door open for Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos to mend bilateral relations, analysts said.

Venezuela severed its ties with Colombia on Thursday due to Bogota's allegations that Colombian military rebels are hiding in Venezuela.

Alejo Vargas, a Doctor of Political Science at the National University of Colombia, told Xinhua recently that Chavez has left open the possibility of resuming relations with the government of Santos, who is to take office on Aug. 7.

"There will be a possibility of resumption, not tomorrow, but once the next government starts, they'll have the advantage of being able to speak and put on the table the concerns of both sides," Vargas said.

The discussions will be held in a "diplomatic and quiet way" and should touch upon the evidence Colombia showed to the Organization of American States (OAS) Thursday concerning the alleged presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuelan soil, the expert said.

Vargas said the crisis will not exert a great impact on the region and other Latin American countries are expected to help solve the problem.

Fernando Giraldo, a PhD in Political Science at Javeriana University, said Santos faces a tough task to rebuild relations with Venezuela after they were severed by Chavez.

"President Santos will spend two or three years restoring those relations, a period for what previously required 15 days," he said.

Santos has repeatedly stated that one of the main priorities of his government is to resume relations with Venezuela and Ecuador. The Colombian-Ecuadorian ties were cut on March 1, 2008, after the Colombian military bombarded a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in Ecuadorian territory.

Former Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia said Santos has admitted to have a particular interest in restoring ties with Venezuela and that Chavez "gave a way out" at a press conference Thursday, when bilateral relations were severed.

"Chavez said he would wait for the new winds, when the new president arrives," Mejia said, adding that Santos's current tour across Latin America could help sooner or later open up a space for dialog.

This is not the first time the two nations suspended political and economic relations. In 2008, Chavez made the same decision after an incursion of the Colombian Army into the Ecuadorian territory, which later turned into a severe crisis between the two countries.

In 2009, Chavez "froze" ties between Caracas and Bogota, saying that a military cooperation agreement signed by the Colombian government and Washington was adversely affecting his country.

Andrea Cristancho, a professor at Rosario University, said that in recent years, both governments lack attention needed to address bilateral issues.

But he ruled out the possibility of a war between the two countries. "I really do not think this will end in a military conflict it is only a matter of speech."

However, for Magdelena Pardo, president of the Colombian-Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce, the situation is serious and disturbing. She urged both countries to return to calm, to stop affecting bilateral trade which went down from 6 billion dollars a year in 2008 to under 500 million dollars today.


Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source: Xinhua

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