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FACTBOX-History of tensions between Venezuela, Colombia
November 6, 2009 / 7:06 PM / 8 years ago

FACTBOX-History of tensions between Venezuela, Colombia

Nov 6 (Reuters) - Colombia and Venezuela are caught up in a diplomatic dispute that some are calling the "Cold War" of the Andes. Border killings and spying charges have fueled recent tensions between the Andean neighbors. See analysis: [ID:nN06180988]

Following are some key facts about the two neighbors and their history:

* Venezuela and Colombia share a 1,375-mile (2,200-km) border and a volatile history. After both were freed from the Spanish by Venezuelan liberator Simon Bolivar in the 19th century, the two countries were the center of a short-lived nation known as Gran Colombia that also included Ecuador and Panama.

* Colombia’s four-decade-old guerrilla conflict has for years spilled over the Venezuelan border, where kidnappings, contraband and drug trafficking are common. Chavez’s ideological closeness to Colombian FARC Marxist rebels has led Washington and Bogota to accuse him of supporting the guerrillas. Chavez denies providing arms or logistical support to the rebels.

* In the early days of their presidencies, former soldier Chavez and attorney Uribe displayed a rapport, exchanging hugs and jokes and striking a cross-border gas pipeline deal despite their political differences. But increasingly their ties have become strained and the diplomatic spat may now help both to shore up popularity at home by stoking nationalist sentiment.

* Chavez, 55, often hits Colombia with diplomatic reprisals. He has called Uribe a liar and a "mafioso" linked to right-wing paramilitary fighters. Uribe’s government once threatened to take Chavez to the international court, accusing him of supporting genocide by backing the Colombian rebels.

* When Chavez recalled his diplomats from Colombia in July it was the third such measure since 2005 when tensions ran high over the arrest in Caracas of a FARC guerrilla leader in a Colombian-led police operation.

* The two countries raised the specter of war in March 2008 after a Colombian bombing raid on a guerrilla camp in Ecuador brought troop movements from Quito and Caracas. Chavez cut diplomatic relations with Bogota and threatened to stop cross-border trade.

* Despite friction, annual bilateral trade has blossomed to $7 billion. Flush with cash from a boom in its principal export, oil, Venezuela has snapped up Colombian farm produce and cars, in exchange for fuel and chemicals. Colombian businesses are worried that this time Chavez could make a dent in commerce. He has already promised to look for replacements for Colombian imports from Argentina and Brazil. But many experts believe the proximity of Colombia and the long history of trade and contacts mean two-way commerce will keep flowing. (Reporting by Patrick Markey in Bogota; Editing by Sandra Maler)





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