The FINANCIAL -- According to RIA Novosti, President Hugo Chavez announced that his country would freeze relations with Colombia following its leader's move to end the Venezuelan president's role in negotiating the release of hostages.
"I declare to the world that I have decided to freeze relations with Colombia because I have completely lost trust with everyone in the Colombian government," the outspoken left-wing leader said in a televised statement on November 25.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced last on November 21, that Chavez would no longer be involved in mediation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on the release of dozens of foreign hostages, after the Venezuelan president allegedly broke protocol by directly contacting the Colombian army chief, General Mario Montoya.
Chavez accused Uribe of lying and said the Colombian government did not want to bring peace to its country. "It is unfortunate that they have such a deceitful president. Colombia deserves a different president," he said.
Despite their strong ideological differences, the two South American leaders had until now maintained a cordial and pragmatic relationship. The Venezuelan move is likely to have a major impact on economic ties.
Chavez was invited by Colombian authorities in mid-September to broker the release of foreign hostages and a former Columbian presidential candidate.
Chavez also angered his Colombian counterpart by meeting with a top FARC commander in Caracas on November 8, and by publicly revealing details of a conversation with Uribe, who he said had privately expressed his willingness to meet with the head of FARC, Manuel "Sureshot" Marulanda.
FARC, a communist revolutionary group considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, continues to hold dozens of foreign hostages, including French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt, who ran for president in Colombia in 2002. She has been held prisoner for almost four years.
Three U.S. citizens - Marc Gonsalves, Tom Howes, and Keith Stansell - were captured by FARC rebels in early 2003.
FARC wants the release of 500 imprisoned rebels in exchange for 45 hostages, including the three Americans and Betancourt, but has so far failed to provide evidence the captives are alive. Colombia has openly considered a military operation to free the prisoners, but the idea has been strongly criticized by the hostages' families.