Chavez Tells Colombia Not to Build Base for US

July 7, 2008 - 8:19 PM

Caracas, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday warned Colombia not to allow a U.S. military base on its border with Venezuela, saying he would consider such an act an "aggression."

Chavez said he would not permit Colombia's U.S.-backed government to establish an American military base in La Guajira, a region spanning northeastern Colombia and northwestern Venezuela.

The Venezuelan leader said if Colombia allows the base, his government will revive a decades-old territorial conflict and stake a claim to the entire region.

"We will not allow the Colombian government to give La Guajira to the empire," Chavez said, referring to the U.S. during a speech to a packed auditorium of uniformed soldiers. "Colombia is launching a threat of war at us."

Chavez said Washington's top diplomat in Bogota, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield, recently suggested that a U.S. military base in Ecuador could be moved to La Guajira.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa -- a close Chavez ally -- has repeatedly said that he will not renew a 10-year lease on the base in the Pacific port of Manta when it expires next year.

Manta is the United States' only military base in South America. Surveillance flights the U.S. runs from there are responsible for about 60 percent of drug interdiction in the eastern Pacific.

Diplomatic relations between Caracas and Bogota have been rocky for months. They worsened last week when Colombia unveiled documents allegedly showing that Chavez sought to arm and finance Colombian rebels. Chavez denies the claim.


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