Venezuela leader speaks of war after Colombia's raid
Mar 2 05:55 AM US/Eastern
President Hugo Chavez has warned of war if the
Colombian military crosses into Venezuelan territory,
after Bogota launched a strike against FARC guerrillas
in Ecuador, killing a top rebel official.
Raul Reyes of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia (FARC) was killed Saturday in the Colomban
raid on a jungle camp on the Ecuadoran side of the
Chavez, speaking in Caracas, warned Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe that any similar strike against
FARC rebels in Venezuela would reap dire consequences.
"President Uribe, think about it long and hard. You
had better not get the idea of doing this on our
territory because it would be a 'causus belli', cause
for a war," Chavez said in his first reaction to the
"This is something very grave which is unprecedented
in our lands," Chavez said, adding that he had
telephoned Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa "and we
agreed to keep exchanging information."
"The government of Colombia acknowledges having made
an incursion, violating the (air) space of a
neighboring country in an irresponsible way. This is
worrisome," Chavez said.
Correa recalled Ecuador's ambassador to Bogota "for
consultations" and warned the action might result in
"ultimate consequences" because of "the offense"
suffered by his country.
The Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry said it had lodged a
formal protest with Bogota demanding an explanation,
while Correa said Uribe was either "misled" by his
military or "lied to the Ecuadoran government."
Uribe telephoned Correa to talk to him about the
operation, but it was unclear if they spoke before or
after the raid. Correa said he had deployed troops to
the area to "verify" what had taken place.
Reyes was in a rebel camp located 1.8 kilometers (a
mile) from the Ecuadoran-Colombian border when the air
force began bombing shortly after midnight, Colombian
Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos told a news
Colombian ground troops were then deployed into the
guerrilla hideout to secure the area, Santos said. A
total of 17 guerrillas and one soldier were killed in
"It is the heaviest blow ever dealt against this
terrorist group," Santos said.
Reyes, 59, whose real name was Luis Edgar Devia, was a
union leader working for Swiss food giant Nestle in
the southern department of Caqueta when he joined FARC
in the 1970s.
The grey-bearded, bespectacled rebel, who went on to
become the FARC's chief spokesman, donning olive
fatigues and carrying a rifle, had been viewed as a
possible successor to the group's 77-year-old boss,
His killing was a major coup for Uribe, who has taken
a hard stance against the 17,000-strong FARC, South
America's biggest insurgent group which has bedeviled
successive governments since the 1960s.
It was the first time that one of the seven members of
FARC's secretariat, or leadership council, was killed
After the death of FARC's ideological leader Jacobo
Arenas in 1992, Reyes became the group's international
face, taking the group's message abroad. In this
capacity, he met with US government representatives in
Costa Rica in 1997.
Pro-government lawmakers and the country's influential
Roman Catholic Church expressed hope that his death
would prompt the FARC to release its hostages and
negotiate a peace agreement.
"The FARC must seriously begin a peace process that
puts an end to this long nightmare that Colombia has
experienced," said Monsignor Fabian Marulanda,
secretary of the Colombian Episcopal Conference.
Reyes's death came three days after the FARC
unilaterally released four former lawmakers who had
been held hostage for years, handing them to the
Venezuelan government and the Red Cross in a snub to