Colombia's relations with Venezuela deteriorate over Swedish rockets

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, announced on Tuesday that "We will freeze relations with Colombia." He attributed the decision to "new aggression by the government of Colombia." Further, he said, "I've ordered to withdraw our ambassador from Bogota, to withdraw our diplomatic personnel."

This diplomatic move follows claims by Colombia that amongst weapons its military has captured from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are AT4 anti-tank rockets manufactured by Saab Bofors Dynamics of Sweden. Colombia further alleges that the weapons were first sold to Venezuela before being given to the FARC.

AT4 being fired by U.S. Marine during a training mission.

"This is not the first time that this happens," Colombian Vice-President Francisco Santos said. "In several operations in which we have recovered weapons from the FARC, we have found powerful munitions and powerful equipment, including anti-tank weapons, from a European country that sold them to Venezuela and that turned up in the hands of the FARC."

"It is correct that they have found these weapons to be Swedish-made," said Jens Eriksson, adviser at the Swedish foreign ministry. "We are working together with Colombian authorities to investigate the matter further and we have contacted Venezuelan authorities to clear up how these arms ended up in Colombia."

Venezuela denies the allegations. "To me it seems that this is a new attack against our government based on lies," Venezuelan interior minister Tarek El Aissami said on Monday. "We absolutely deny that our government or our institutions are providing assistance to criminal and terrorist organizations. It's laughable, it sounds like a cheap film made by the American government."

Foreign minister Nicolás Maduro said that the whole thing is a campaign "to justify the presence of US bases" in Colombia.