President Hugo Chavez has warned Colombia that he would hit back hard militarily if Colombian troops were to stray into Venezuelan territory as they did in Ecuador.
"Sadly, and it would hurt me to the bottom of my soul, I would immediately have the Suhkoi fighters fired up and the armored tanks; I am not going to let anyone disrespect Venezuela's sovereignty for anything in the world," Chavez said on his weekly television and radio show "Alo, Presidente" yesterday.
Chavez called Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos a "threat to the peace in South America" and charged that he hoped to "turn Colombia into the Israel of South America." He also said he had discussed the issues with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe by phone.
The Venezuelan president was responding with a verbal broadside after Santos, in an interview March 1 in the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, argued that Colombia had a legitimate right to self-defense that allows it to attack what Bogota sees as "terrorists systematically attacking the country even if they are not located inside its own territory.