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Caracas, Monday January 24 , 2005  
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The ruler denied any deal with guerrilla members
Washington sparked the crisis, says Chávez
The President lashed at US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (Photo: Efe)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez denied that his country was a negative force in the hemisphere and called again US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice an illiterate. Chávez blamed Washington for the Colombian-Venezuelan crisis and urged Álvaro Uribe to amend his mistake


Outside Miraflores Palace, President Hugo Chávez closed a national sovereignty march held on Sunday by stating that the abduction of guerrilla leader Rodrigo Granda was not planned in Bogotá, but it is part of "Washington imperialist strategy to curb South American integration."

In an excited speech against the US imperialism and President Bush, Chávez filled the Colombian President Uribe Vélez government with recriminations and said that if Colombia failed to rectify, he would be forced to freeze bilateral relations and minimize trade.

During his speech that lasted one and a half hour before an enthusiast audience who praised his ironies and off color jokes about the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the President said that such provocations would continue but would never neutralize "the beautiful peaceful, democratic revolution in Venezuela." Followers filled almost three blocks of Urdaneta Avenue, from Miraflores Palace to Carmelitas corner.

"The USA will try to damage us again. They caused great harm in 2002, but I must warn Bush: If you continue this way, we will make you bite the dust of defeat once more time. I promise, you are not stronger," he said.

Afterwards, Chávez added: "I bet, I bet, Mr Bush. One dollar, is the following, who has longer here, that's O.K., no more, no more Mr Bush", in an attempt at challenging the US ruler to bet one dollar on who will stay longer in office. "I have two years left in this government. Now, he (Bush) has an advantage because he was elected for four additional years. I am candidate to the elections of December 2006. I bet one dollar on who will stay longer -whether he in the White House or Chávez in Miraflores, let's see."

Waiting for signals
President Chávez threatened to freeze the Colombian-Venezuelan relations if President Uribe Vélez does not try to rectify "his fault" and does not refrain from repeating actions such as Granda's kidnapping. "We are not asking the Colombian government to kneel down or humiliate themselves. Firstly, they should acknowledge that a mistake was made, and secondly, they should undertake to prevent these events from happening again. In this case, we had just to monitor closely our relations with the Colombian government. In the absence of a signal satisfactory for Venezuela, we will have to freeze relations and move away."

Chávez -who on several occasions acknowledged that the two countries were facing a diplomatic crisis and labeled as disgusting the communiqués from the Colombian government- regretted that Uribe "did not take his time" to react. Chávez insisted on the fact that for one month he studied a proper response to Granda's abduction. "I spoke up when the situation was unsustainable, when a version emerged about a presumed handover of Granda by the Venezuelan government."

Translated by Conchita Delgado

See also:
- Argentina is willing to help solve Colombian-Venezuelan crisis
- Samper calls Chávez' warning to Colombia an "economic blackmail"
- Venezuela restricts trade on the Colombian border
- Lula advises Chávez and Uribe to overcome impasse
- Vice-President Rangel disappointed with Colombian report

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