View Full Version : Bush Assails Chavez, Backs Colombia In Standoff

03-05-2008, 09:32 AM
Bush assails Chavez, backs Colombia in standoff


Tue Mar 4, 2008 2:03pm EST

WASHINGTON, March 4 (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush on Tuesday accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government of "provocative maneuvers" against Colombia and vowed to oppose any act of aggression in the Andean region.

"I told him that America would continue to stand with Colombia as it confronts violence and terror and fights drug traffickers," Bush told reporters after a phone call with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

Bush was quick to single out Chavez, a strident anti-U.S. critic, as a culprit in a crisis that has engulfed the Andean region after a raid by Colombian troops into Ecuador on Saturday that killed a top commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC.

Ecuador and Venezuela have responded by cutting diplomatic ties with Colombia, a close U.S. ally, and ordering troops to their neighbor's borders.

Uribe has accused Chavez and his ally Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa of supporting the FARC. The group is seen as a terrorist group by Uribe's government and the United States.

Bush said Uribe had updated him on the situation, "including the continuing assault by narco-terrorists as well as the provocative maneuvers by the regime in Venezuela."

"I told the president that America fully supports Colombia's democracy and that we firmly oppose any act of aggression that could destabilize the region," he added.

Bush urged Republican and Democratic lawmakers to put aside differences over a free trade agreement with Colombia and approve the pact in a show of support for Bogota.

"If we fail to approve this agreement, we will let down a close ally. We will damage our credibility in the region and we will embolden the demagogues in our hemisphere," Bush said.

The crisis has reflected a sharp political divide in South America, where Uribe, who has strong U.S. financial and military backing, is opposed by leftists led by Chavez who fiercely reject what they brand U.S. "imperialism".

Chavez, who has called for a socialist revolution in Latin America to counter U.S. influence, has regularly hurled insults at Bush in recent years and once called him the "devil" in a speech to the U.N. General Assembly. (Additional reporting by Doug Palmer, Editing by Frances Kerry)