Venezuela Arrests 19 Colombians on Spying Charges

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez

Today in Latin America

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.

Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

Caribbean

Central America

  • 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.

Andes

Southern Cone

  • 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.

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One comment

  1. This “indiscriminate tree cutting” crime seems absurd. It is difficult to understand from this piece what provoked the government’s (read: Chavez’ ) reaction. I mean, do spies, even amateur ones, go around making themselves visible by engaging in such indiscriminate tree cutting? I don’t get it.

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