Venezuela Warns Colombia Over Meeting With Opposition Leader

Thursday, 30 May 2013 04:35 AM

CARACA, Venezuela — Venezuela opposition leader Henrique Capriles met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in a move that Venezuela’s government said could damage relations between the neighboring countries.

Capriles discussed trade and safety along the border with Santos yesterday in Bogota as Colombia offered to swap powdered milk for oil to ease shortages of consumer goods and basic foods in South America’s largest oil producer. Venezuelan National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello called the meeting with Capriles, who claimed fraud after losing this year’s presidential election to Nicolas Maduro, an “aggression.”

“We’re surprised by the meeting, but it helps clarify the position of governments that claim to be friends and then do the contrary,” Cabello said on state television. “It’s worrying and suspicious that a government that claims to be a friend placed a bomb under the train of good relations.”

Santos said Sept. 26 that his country and Venezuela had been “thinking of war” before he took steps to improve relations at the start of his presidential term in 2010. Late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez cut trade ties with Colombia in 2009 after the government of then-President Alvaro Uribe signed a deal to increase U.S. access to military bases.

Capriles, the governor of Miranda state, also discussed Venezuela’s institutions at the Bogota meeting, according to an e-mailed statement from his office.

‘Great Needs’

Colombian Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas offered to fly to Caracas to discuss how his country can help address Venezuela’s need for powdered milk, food and paper products.

“Venezuela has great needs, right now it has a serious problem with supplying essential goods,” Cardenas told reporters in Bogota. “They are a rich country, they have oil reserves, so that simply having access to reserves or future commitments in terms of oil could be a formula.”

The Venezuelan central bank’s scarcity index, which measures the amount of goods that are out of stock on the market, rose to 21.3 percent last month, the highest since it started tracking the measure in April 2009. That’s having an impact on inflation, which accelerated to 4.3 percent in April from a month earlier, the fastest pace in three years.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013 04:35 AM
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