Chavez says Venezuela has deployed troops, aircraft amid tensions with Colombia

Friday, July 30, 2010

Chavez: Venezuela has deployed troops amid spat

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Friday said he has deployed troops and air units in case of a conflict with neighboring Colombia.

Chavez did not give details about the deployments, but said he has been saddened to be spending hours “reviewing war plans” due to tensions with Colombia.

The socialist president also said, however, that he wants peace and hopes it will be possible to talk with Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos and ease tensions after he takes office on Aug. 7.

Chavez cut off diplomatic relations with U.S.-allied Colombia last week after outgoing President Alvaro Uribe’s government presented photos, videos and maps of what it said were Colombian rebel camps inside Venezuela.

Chavez called it an attempt to smear his government and said Uribe could be trying to lay the groundwork for an armed conflict.

“We have deployed units to defend our sovereignty in case of an aggression — air defense units, air units, infantry units, special operations,” Chavez said. He said those deployments were unannounced “because we don’t want to harm anyone, nor do we want to cause alarm.”

Chavez said a Colombian helicopter had violated Venezuelan airspace for five minutes on Thursday, and that his military is on alert because Uribe “is capable of anything.”

“They aren’t going to lead us into a war through blackmail,” Chavez told state television.

The Colombian government denies seeking a military conflict and has said it is simply seeking cooperation from Venezuela in rooting out rebels.

Chavez said he had sent Venezuelan forces to check the locations where Colombia alleged there were rebel bases, and found nothing but an abandoned house.

Chavez also said he is creating a new military district in border areas.

(This version CORRECTS that Chavez said ‘air units’ instead of ‘aircraft’)

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