Cuba says Venezuela's spat with Colombia could hurt peace talks

by Reuters
Sunday, 2 June 2013 04:51 GMT

HAVANA, June 1 (Reuters) - Cuba expressed support on Saturday for its ally Venezuela in a row with Colombia, which Havana suggested could hurt peace talks it has been hosting to end Colombia's long war with leftist rebels.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared in a statement Cuba's "unvarying position of solidarity with Venezuela and of recognition of the legitimate government of President Nicolas Maduro."

Henrique Capriles, who was narrowly defeated by Maduro in Venezuela's April election met with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in Bogota on Tuesday, provoking an angry accusation by Maduro that Santos was plotting against him.

Capriles visited Colombia as part of a planned tour through Latin American countries to make his case that Maduro's election victory was fraudulent.

In response, Maduro withdrew Venezuela's envoy to the peace talks being held in Havana to end half a century of conflict between the Colombian government and the Marxist-led FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

Rodriguez accused Capriles of working with power groups in the United States to destabilize Venezuela.

"These actions and any direct or indirect help hurt the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean, diminish independence and hurt the efforts of Venezuela and other states in favor of peace," he said.

Colombia's lead negotiator in Havana, Humberto de la Calle, said on Friday he hoped the neighboring South American countries could quickly patch up relations because "the role played by Venezuela has been very important to the talks, very important."

Cuba and Norway are guaranteeing the talks, which began in November, while Venezuela and Chile have had representatives assisting the process.

The talks are on a break until June 11 after the announcement of a landmark agreement on agrarian reform that is a critical step toward a peace accord.

Venezuela is Cuba's main ally and benefactor and provides the communist-led island with two-thirds of its daily oil needs in exchange for the services of more than 40,000 Cubans, most of them doctors and medical personnel providing health to Venezuela's poor. (Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by David Brunnstrom)

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