BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia’s diplomatic spat with Venezuela took a new turn this week with a series of billboards in Bogota showing pictures of Hugo Chavez, the leader of the neighboring country, with his eyes closed.
“Hey!”, the billboards say, “Open your eyes!”
For years Colombia has asked the self-styled socialist revolutionary to do more to help combat Marxist Colombian guerrillas widely despised in the country for their violence and use of kidnapping.
But relations between the countries have only worsened.
Chavez accuses Colombian conservative President Alvaro Uribe and the United States of planning an invasion of Venezuela in a bid to take over the OPEC-member country’s vast oil reserves. Both countries dismiss the claim.
Colombian Senator Armando Benedetti, an Uribe loyalist, organized the publicity campaign to rally Colombians around their government as South American leaders gather for a summit in Argentina on Friday.
Chavez and leftist Ecuadorean leader Rafael Correa have blasted Colombia for negotiating a plan with Washington to increase U.S. military cooperation as part of a long-standing alliance against cocaine traffickers and Marxist guerrillas.
Correa is also featured on some of the billboards. He broke diplomatic ties with Colombia last year after the Colombian military bombed a rebel camp on Ecuador’s side of the border.
Colombia accuses Chavez and Correa of not cooperating in its fight against drug-running insurgents. Both leaders have shunned Washington while strengthening ties with China, Russia and Iran.
Chavez has attacked Colombia as a “narco-state,” ordered probes of Colombian companies in Venezuela and urged his supporters to reach out to left-leaning Colombian politicians.
Colombia on Wednesday filed a complaint against Chavez with the Organization of American States, accusing him of meddling in its affairs. This followed a scandal in which Venezuela was accused of providing rockets to Colombia’s biggest rebel army, known as the FARC.
Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; editing by Todd Eastham