Brazil’s Silva seeks to ease Venezuela-Colombia dispute, Chavez says he is optimistic

Friday, August 6, 2010

Chavez optimistic on Silva’s help in Colombia spat

CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez expressed optimism Friday that Brazil’s president may help ease tensions between Venezuela and Colombia, and said his foreign minister will likely attend the inauguration of Colombia’s new president.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has been seeking to encourage talks between the neighbors and will attend Saturday’s inauguration of Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos.

Chavez cut diplomatic ties with Colombia on July 22 after its U.S.-allied government released evidence that it says shows Venezuela giving haven to Colombian rebels.

After meeting with Silva, Chavez said the Brazilian leader is going to Bogota with “a mission that we’ve discussed quite a bit today.”

“We’re very optimistic,” Chavez said, declining to give details of what they discussed.

Chavez said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro will probably attend the inauguration as well. Such a visit could be a first step toward restoring dialogue, which Silva has said he hopes to promote.

Chavez has said he hopes Santos’ approach is different from that of his hard-line predecessor, Alvaro Uribe.

“We’re all mediating,” Chavez told reporters with a smile as he walked into the meeting with Silva and former Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, secretary-general of the South American Unasur group.

Trade between Venezuela and Colombia has fallen sharply since Chavez froze relations a year ago in response to Colombia’s decision to grant the U.S. military expanded access to its military bases.

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