Colombia-Venezuela Business Deals Put On Hold

Amidst escalating tensions between Colombia and Venezuela over the recent abduction of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s (FARC) foreign minister, Ricardo Granda, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Colombia, Carlos Santiago Ramirez, was called back to Caracas, for “consultation.” Also, President Chavez, during his annual report to the National Assembly, announced that bilateral business deals, such as the Venezuela-Colombia gas pipeline, would be put on hold as long as the Colombian government does not apologize for its actions in the kidnapping.

Consultation is a step below an official protest between governments.  Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel noted, “For now, our ambassador, Gen. Carlos Santiago Ramirez was called back,” deeming that Colombia’s actions “constitute a crime that could have international implications.” He went on to criticize the Colombian government for “committing a huge mistake by legitimizing these criminal acts,” adding “This is bringing back the law of the jungle in the Andes.”

The recall of the Venezuelan ambassador follows a statement released on January 12th by Colombia’s Defense Minister, Jorge Alberto Uribe, in which he retracted his prior position that Granda was captured in Cúcuta, Colombia, on December 15th, 2004 and confirmed that the high-ranking FARC member was indeed apprehended in Caracas two days prior.

Chavez, in his speech to the National Assembly, said, “With much pain I have withdrawn the Venezuelan ambassador in Bogotá and the ambassador will not return as long as the Colombian government does not apologize and rectify what it has done.” Chavez also explained that he sees himself “obligated” to suspend bilateral business deals. “It cannot be. It is unjustifiable from any point of view that high officials of the Colombian state are instigating Venezuelan officials to break the law,” said Chavez, adding, “they are buying Venezuelan military personnel who betray their homeland and these will be punished with the full weight of the law.”

Granda was kidnapped in Caracas on the 13th of December around 4 in the afternoon by a Special Task Force of the Venezuelan National Guard that was closely cooperating with the Colombian National Police. Although Chacón admitted that the Venezuelan investigation has not yet identified the Colombian police involved in the incident, he informed the Colombian Minister of Defense, Jorge Alberto Uribe, that there was proof linking the Colombian police to the kidnapping of Granda.

Chacón went on to emphasize that Granda was not wanted by the Colombian government nor any other government until January 9, 2005, in order words, 25 days after his capture in Bellas Artes, Caracas. For the Minister, this procedure is ironic. “I do not understand why they are making the request for his arrest since they have already detained him.”