CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez ordered Venezuela’s embassy in Colombia closed and sent thousands of troops to the countries’ border Sunday after Colombia’s military killed a top rebel leader.
Chavez told his defense minister: “move 10 battalions to the border with Colombia for me, immediately.” He ordered the Venezuelan Embassy in Bogota closed and said all embassy personnel would be withdrawn.
The announcements by Venezuela’s leftist leader pushed relations to their tensest point of his nine-year presidency, and Chavez warned that Colombia could spark a war in South America. He called the U.S.-allied government in Bogota “a terrorist state” and labelled President Alvaro Uribe “a criminal.”
Chavez condemned Colombia’s slaying of senior rebel commander Raul Reyes and 16 other guerrillas on Saturday, saying they were killed while they slept in a camp across the border in Ecuadorean territory.
He said Colombia “invaded Ecuador, flagrantly violated Ecuador’s sovereignty.”
“It wasn’t any combat. It was a cowardly murder, all of it coldly calculated,” Chavez said on his weekly TV and radio program, “Hello, President.”
“We pay tribute to a true revolutionary, who was Raul Reyes,” Chavez said, recalling that he had met rebel in Brazil in 1995 and calling him a “good revolutionary.”