Chavez ‘ready for combat’ with Colombia

As tension between Caracas and Bogota gains momentum, the Venezuelan president has ordered the military to be prepared for a possible confrontation with Colombia.

“The threat against us is growing,” the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday. “I call on the people and the armed forces, let’s go, ready for combat,” he was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

Chavez has repeatedly claimed that the United States is planning to use its bases in Colombia to destabilize the region. He first made the claims after learning about the ongoing negotiations over the lease of seven military bases in Colombia by the US.

The leftist president also said that Colombian soldiers had recently crossed into the country in an attempt to provoke the Venezuelan military.

“They crossed the Orinoco River in a boat and entered Venezuelan territory,” Chavez said. “When our troops arrived, they’d already left.”

“Venezuela’s military will respond if there’s an attack against Venezuela,” he added.

Chavez further said that he would call on his allies in this week’s summit of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Quito, Ecuador, to pressure the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe into reconsidering the military deal with the US.

“We cannot ignore this threat,” Chavez said during his weekly radio and television address.

The two Latin American neighbors severed ties last month after Colombia accused Venezuela of supplying arms to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas.

Chavez denied the charges and recalled his ambassador to Bogota Gustavo Marquez, before re-deploying him on Saturday.

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