The Miami Herald
Sun, Jan. 30, 2005

Dispute resolved, two nations vow to work together

Colombian and Venezuelan leaders lauded the end of a 3-week diplomatic crisis.


BOGOTA - Venezuelan and Colombian officials celebrated on Saturday the apparent end of a tense three-week crisis between the two nations over the capture of a left-wing guerrilla leader in December.

Late Friday, the countries agreed to work through established legal channels in the fight against terror, drugs, smuggling and kidnapping.

While Colombian President Alvaro Uribe called it a ''new era,'' Venezuelan Vice President José Vicente Rangel hailed it as a ''good result'' from a bad situation.

The return to goodwill between Colombia and Venezuela did not stop Rangel from criticizing the United States, who he said ''was left in a bad position'' for interferring in the squabble.

Since the diplomatic spat erupted, U.S. officials have repeatedly called on Venezuelan authorities to clarify whether they provide safe-haven for leftist rebel groups.

In December, a guerrilla leader named Rodrigo Granda was captured in Caracas and shuttled in the trunk of a vehicle 14 hours across the border into the Colombian city of Cúcuta.

At first, the Colombian government announced they had captured Granda in Cúcuta but later admitted to paying bounty hunters to track the fugitive in Venezuela where Granda had citizenship, a house, and regular contact with leftist movements as part of his job as a member of the ''international commission'' of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, more commonly known by its acronym FARC.

After arresting eight military officers suspected of being involved in the capture, the Venezuelan government attacked the Colombian government for ''bribing'' its personnel.

It then suspended commercial relations with Colombia and was threatening to cut diplomatic ties until foreign chancellors from various neighboring countries, as well as Cuban President Fidel Castro, reportedly stepped in to help resolve the dispute.

Still, the Granda case exposed a chasm in the two government's world views and that of the United States'.Uribe, who began a weekend-long visit to the border on Saturday, will be traveling to Venezuela next week to meet with Chávez.