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Venezuela says it has captured Colombian "spies"
Tue Oct 27, 2009 10:05pm EDT
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By Ana Isabel Martinez
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela said on Tuesday that it had captured Colombian security agents it said planned to destabilize the government, heightening tensions in the ongoing diplomatic row between the Andean nations.
Venezuelan Deputy Foreign Minister Francisco Arias Cardenas confirmed that there had been arrests, but did not provide details or say how many Colombians were detained.
"Do not underestimate the importance of an event as serious and as grave as the capture of Colombian DAS security agents committing acts of espionage," Cardenas told reporters.
He said Venezuela would present evidence to support the charges in the next few hours.
Diplomatic and commercial ties between the South American neighbors have been frayed before. Earlier this year, President Hugo Chavez suspended relations and reduced trade over a Colombian plan to allow U.S. troops to use seven of its bases.
Tensions between Caracas and Bogota were reignited over the weekend after the murder of 10 members of an amateur Colombian football team across the border in Venezuela, an incident the Venezuelan government said it would investigate.
Colombia's security agency DAS issued a statement denying that it had sent agents into Venezula to spy or to destabilize the government.
Maria Luisa Chiape, the Colombian ambassador to Venezuela, said,"I will not be provoked. I think it is important not to lose sight of the central point that is the fact 10 people, including eight Colombians, were killed in a massacre."
COLOMBIA DEMANDS PROBE
Colombian Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaime Bermudez called for an investigation of the murders.
"The entire world is confident that Venezuela will conduct a responsible, prompt, and transparent investigation," he said to reporters in Bogota.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe's close ties with Washington have helped his government secure billions of dollars in U.S. aid to fight drug traffickers and leftist guerrillas.
Chavez, a leftist who has become a flagbearer for anti-U.S. sentiment in the region, has sparred with Uribe over his country's U.S.-backed campaign against Marxist rebels. Chavez denies charges he supports the FARC guerrillas.
Chavez's government claims the kidnapping and murder of the Colombian football team is part of the prolonged civil conflict within Colombia and has blamed the killings on Colombian ELN rebels, the country's second largest guerrilla group.
Uribe has attributed the murders to terrorism and has requested the Venezuelan government help protect the border population. Continued...
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