Chavez threatens to cut ties with Colombia over US access to bases

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced that he was preparing to break off diplomatic relations with Colombia, escalating the dispute over the Colombian government’s decision to grant the US military access to its bases.


REUTERS - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday he was preparing to break off diplomatic relations with Colombia in an escalating dispute over Bogota's decision to grant the U.S. military access to Colombian bases.

"We have to prepare the rupture of relations with Colombia, Nicolas. This is going to happen," Chavez told his Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro in a state television broadcast.

Chavez is furious at Colombia's decision to allow the U.S. military access to seven of its army bases to tackle drug trafficking and leftist guerrillas.

His threat to cut ties with Colombia came one day before a regional summit in Argentina where South American leaders will discuss the U.S.-Colombian security agreement.

Chavez, a fierce critic of U.S. influence in Latin America, has said the deal will mean a U.S. military build-up that could lead to war in South America.

The leftist president has often clashed with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Washington's closest ally in the region.

Although they usually make up quickly, tensions seem deeper this time and he is trying to replace imports of Colombian food and textiles with products from Brazil and Argentina.

On Wednesday, Colombia accused Chavez of meddling in its internal affairs after he told his ambassador in Bogota to work with leftist leaders in the neighboring country.

The two nations shared $7 billion in trade last year.

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