President Hugo Chavez on Saturday announced the return of his ambassador to Colombia, but said Venezuela still intended to take a stand against negotiations to lease seven Colombian military bases to the U.S.
Chavez told Ambassador Gustavo Marquez to return to Bogota, the Colombian capital, 11 days after the diplomat was recalled. He also reiterated concerns that the U.S. could use bases in Colombia to destabilize the region.
“We’re not telling Colombia what it has to do with its territory,” Chavez said from Caracas, the Venezuelan capital, in an interview with Colombia’s RCN television. “But we have the right to warn, and that’s what we’re doing.”
Colombian officials have said Venezuela has no reason to be concerned, and that the U.S. forces would help fight drug trafficking.
Chavez previously accused Colombia, one of Venezuela’s biggest trading partners, of acting irresponsibly in its accusation that anti-tank rocket launchers sold to Venezuela by Sweden during the 1980s were obtained by the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Sweden confirmed that the arms were originally sold to Venezuela.
Chavez assured visiting Colombian activists he was willing to work with Bogota to settle the dispute. The group was led by Sen. Piedad Cordoba and Alan Jara, a politician and onetime FARC hostage.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s government said Friday that only the president and foreign minister are authorized to conduct foreign relations.