On July 15 the Colombian government held a press conference to announce its possession of evidence that the Venezuelan government is harboring Colombian guerrillas, including high-ranking leaders, on Venezuela’s side of the border. The following week Colombia’s Ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Alfonso Hoyos, presented to that regional body high-resolution graphics of more than 80 camps said to be housing nearly1500 guerrillas. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez responded immediately by severing diplomatic relations and putting Venezuela’s armed forces on high alert. Over Venezuelan 20,000 troops are now stationed on the two nations’1250-mile border.
Before the Colombian government’s announcement it had looked as though the previously tense relations between the two countries had been warming. President-elect Juan Manual Santos invited Chavez to his inauguration, while Chavez had approved a meeting between Venezuela’s foreign minister and Santos’minister-designate.
For Chavez, though, this crisis isn’t just about Colombia; it is also the latest example of the power of U.S. influence in Colombia. On Monday he said he considers an armed attack from Colombia “probable” and accused the U.S. government of pushing for such an attack, calling the U.S. “the great instigator.” Undeterred by the fact that the U.S. is the biggest consumer of Venezuelan oil, Chavez pledged to cut off shipments of oil to the U.S. if such an attack occurs, “even if everybody over here has to eat stones.”