Venezuela & Colombia Make Nice
Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Colombia's Alvaro Uribe are attempting rapprochement after months of sniping that threatened billions of dollars in trade and unleashed a diplomatic crisis.
Latin America's top U.S. opponent and closest U.S. ally will set aside their on-and-off feud for talks on Friday because, analysts say, each benefits politically from normalized relations.
The countries are key commercial partners, with some $6 billion in trade last year and Uribe says he expects to sign accords to link the Andean neighbors with two new railways.
For both presidents, "the interest right now is to lower the level of confrontation and strengthen relations in common areas, especially the economy," said analyst Sadio Garavini, a former Venezuelan diplomat.
Relations sank to their lowest point in decades in March after Colombia attacked a rebel camp in Ecuador. Chavez responded by briefly dispatching troops to Venezuela's border with Colombia, pulling his ambassador and threatening to cut back trade. He later restored relations, something Ecuador's leftist government hasn't done.
During a feud over Chavez's mediation role with Colombian rebels, the Venezuelan president called Uribe a "pawn of the U.S. empire" and likened him to a mafia boss. "A man like that doesn't deserve to be the president of a country - coward, liar!" Chavez said.
Colombia, meanwhile, accused Chavez of offering an open-ended loan of at least $250 million to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC - charges bolstered by documents that Uribe's government said were retrieved from a laptop at the bombed guerrilla camp. Bogota officials also say Venezuela has long harbored several rebel leaders.
Chavez denied the accusation and Colombia's ambassador to Caracas, Fernando Marin, said the laptop documents are not on Friday's agenda.