BBC News

Chavez fumes at neighbour Colombia

Aug 06--There are few world leaders who would produce anti-tank rocket launchers in the middle of a news conference.

6 de agosto de 2009

But Hugo Chavez has never been a conventional leader.

As he addressed journalists on Wednesday, he said the props were necessary to show that Colombia was lying when it suggested Venezuela had been arming Colombian rebels.

After explaining in detail to the assembled media how to use the weapons, the Venezuelan president said it was clear how easy it would be to fabricate the photographic "evidence" produced by the Colombian government to accuse Venezuela of supplying the Swedish-made rockets to the left-wing Farc guerrilla group.

The rockets in the photos were 14 years old, Mr Chavez said, and had been stolen from a military base in Venezuela.

President Chavez, who last week recalled the Venezuelan ambassador to Colombia, used Wednesday's news conference to announce he was halting the import of 10,000 cars from Colombia and seeking to substitute Colombian products with goods from other countries.


This is far from the first time the two neighbours have fallen out. As recently as March last year President Chavez broke off all diplomatic relations with Colombia and recalled his ambassador over what was soon to become "the Andean crisis of 2008".

In that instance, a cross-border attack by the Colombian military on a group of Farc rebels on Ecuadorean territory - during which the guerrilla leader, Raul Reyes, was killed - sparked one of the worst diplomatic disputes in the region since the end of the Cold War.

At the time, Mr Chavez ordered 10 tank battalions to the border with Colombia in the midst of an escalating conflict that was eventually smoothed over at a regional meeting a few days later.
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