.- In declarations to Union Radio, the first vice president of the Venezuelan Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro, has called for reconciliation and said the government should avoid any kind of military confrontation with Colombia or other neighboring countries.
On March 1, Colombian forces killed Raul Reyes, the number two in command of the Marxist rebel group FARC, during a confrontation that took place on Ecuadoran soil. The episode has caused a crisis between Colombia and Ecuador.
In what appears to be saber rattling, the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has also ordered 10 battalions of tanks to the border with Colombia.
During his TV program “Alo Presidente,” President Hugo Chavez said the Colombian incursion “violated Ecuador’s sovereignty” and that if it had occurred on Venezuelan soil it would have been “a reason for war.”
Ecuador announced the immediate expulsion of the Colombian ambassador in Quito and recalled its ambassador from Bogota. Ecuador has also mobilized troops on its border with Colombia.
Archbishop Luckert said it was a mistake for Chavez to stir up the nationalism of Venezuelans over a confrontation with Colombia that does not involve them, “because supposedly the one who should complain is President Correa (of Ecuador).”
He also noted that more than five million Colombians live in Venezuela, many in the agriculture industry in the region of Zulia, which would be “paralyzed” if all the Colombians who work there went home.
Chavez “cannot take Venezuela into an armed conflict just because he feels like it. He must consult the country,” Archbishop Luckert stated.