A push for diplomacy between Venezuela and Columbia is being led by the U.S. and Brazil. It follows Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez order to his military to prepare for a possible war with Columbia.
Many people in Columbia and Venezuela dismiss Chavez's call to war as an effort to focus attention away from his domestic problems like the flagging economy, water shortages, and power blackouts.
The TimesTribune.com reports that Chavez accuses the U.S. of trying to provoke a war between the two South American countries. He points to a deal made recently between Columbia and the U.S. to give American troops more access to Columbia's military basis.
But Brazil's defense minister, Nelson Jobim in Brasilia, downplays the risk of an armed conflict.
"We believe that everything can be resolved with dialogue. I don't think the tension is going to increase; it's part of the rhetoric of the continent."
And in Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said:
"I certainly don't think this is about the United States. But we certainly would encourage dialogue between Venezuela and Colombia and a peaceful resolution of the situation along their border."
U.S. and Colombian officials have tried to smooth public relations about the base deal over, saying it's targeted only at increasing the fight against Colombian drug traffickers and leftest rebels. Colombia is a primary cocaine producer. But those critical of U.S. policies say the deal will really help Washington to expand its influence and interference in the region.
Venezuelans are not very keen on the idea of a war with Columbia. A poll released on November 11th, by a Caracas polling firm, Datanalisis shows that nearly 80 percent of the population disagrees with Chavez declaration of war on Columbia. The poll questioned 1,300 people.
Other surveys show a recent drop in Chavez's popularity, as the public shows its increasing concern over power blackouts, water shortages and a flailing economy.
Luis Vicente, a pollster with Datanalisis told the Associated Press,
"It's always more interesting to get the people talking about a war with Colombia than to get them talking about issues like inflation, water problems or electricity problems,"
The war of words is creating a big decline in trade between Columbia and Venezuela. The Colombian-Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce estimates trade between the two neighbors this year could fall 20 percent from 2008, to around $4.5 billion.