Top Story — Tensions between Colombia and Venezuela have flared up again as Venezuela arrested 19 Colombians accused of allegedly carrying illegal arms and cutting trees.
This week’s arrests come almost a month after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government arrested 20 Colombians accused of spying and Colombian President Álvaro Uribe advised citizens not to travel to Venezuela.
Animosity between the two nations has been a fact of life for a while, as there is a political and ideological split between Chavez’s socialist administration and Uribe’s right-wing government that has strong ties to the United States.
Chavez worries about Colombia’s ties with the U.S., especially the proposed joint military pact that Colombia and the U.S. signed last October and the Free Trade Agreement that US Defense Secretary Robert Gates renewed the push for last month.
Chavez has also recently spoke out against Colombian presidential candidate and former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, drawing criticism from the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Arturo Valenzuela. Chavez said that if Santos wins this month’s elections, he will not re-establish relations between the two countries.
On Venezuela’s arrest of the 19 Colombians, Radio Nacional in Venezuela reported that the Colombians were picked up in the central state of Miranda because they were “indiscriminately” chopping down trees.
“It is not discounted that they might belong to a military cell,” the state radio station quoted local mayor Juan Aponte as saying, according to the Irish Times.
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Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Mexican authorites found the bodies of a groom and two members of his wedding party in the back of a truck in Ciudad Juarez, four days after they were kidnapped leaving a church.
- A Canadian man claims that Delta Airlines lost his dog on a flight from Mexico to his home in Seaforth, Canada. Delta says the dog escaped from a carrier on the tarmac.
- A former Ford auto assembly plant in Mexico that produced F-series pickups reopened this week and plans to make 180,000 of the smaller Ford Fiestas there this year.
- Artists and intellectuals in Spain launched an initiative Wednesday to promote democracy in Cuba.
- Jerseys from NHL stars who played in this year’s Olympic games will be auctioned on eBay to raise money for Haiti.
- The Punta Cana airport, the Dominican Republic’s busiest airport, will receive several upgrades, including a new $30 million runway and a new terminal.
- Witnesses to child labor at a U.S. slaughterhouse are being flown in from Guatemala to testify against Shalom Rubashkin, the former plant executive.
- Manuel de Jesus Martinez Aguilar, a Honduran immigrant residing in Houston, Texas, was indicted for illegal re-entry into the U.S., and illegal possession of a firearm according to prosecutors on Wednesday.
- FIFA suspended El Salvador from international tournaments due to government interference in the game as El Salvador’s government refused to recognize local officials FIFA had appointed.
- Charles Benton Musslewhite, a Texas lawyer testifying against Dole Food Co. in the company’s case against six Nicaraguans accused of fraud, denied being part of the group conspiring against the company.
- U.S.. President Obama says he is committed to establishing free trade agreements with Panama and Colombia, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says he faces “political winds” that could lead to an uncertain outcome.
- Colombia’s Interior Ministry said that cocaine production fell to an 11-year low in 2009, dropping from 430 tons in 2008 to 390 metric tons of the drug last year.
- Peruvian officials discussed solutions Wednesday to the issue of Peru’s natural gas exports, which are due to begin next month.
- Ecuador’s national soccer team drew a tie against the Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.
- A Chilean court extended the detention of a Pakistani citizen arrested Monday when traces of explosives were discovered on papers he carried into the American Embassy in Santiago.
- The Oscar-winning filmmaker Katherine Bigelow was criticized by Paraguayan and Argentine officials for an upcoming film project, which will focus on criminal activity in the triple border region between Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil.
- Brazil’s president Lula da Silva has signed a decree to create the Olympic Public Authority, which will oversee preparations for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
- The deadline for Argentina’s scheduled securities swap was extended until May 14.
- Argentine president Cristina Fernández will visit Uruguay and meet with president José Mujica to discuss bilateral issues on June 4.
Image: Rogimmi @ Flickr.