Prepare for war: Chavez

Colombia said it will appeal to the UN Security Council and the OAS after Hugo Chavez, the fiery leftist president of neighbouring Venezuela, ordered his army to prepare for war in order to assure peace.
For months Chavez has said that a military cooperation pact signed last month between Bogota and Washington could set the stage for a US invasion of Venezuela from Colombian territory.
The United States and Colombia dismiss that idea, saying cooperation is aimed strictly at fighting drug traffickers and Marxist insurgents within Colombia.
During a television address, Chavez ordered his military to prepare for war as the best way to preserve peace in the region. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe shot back with a statement rejecting Chavez’s remarks.
“Considering the threats of war enunciated by the government of Venezuela, the government of Colombia proposes going to the Organization of American States and the Security Council of the United Nations,” the statement said.
Colombia also called for “frank dialogue” with Venezuela over their long-simmering diplomatic spat.
Venezuela has spent more than $3 billion on arms, prompting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to warn against an arms race in the region.
Colombia recently asked the World Trade Organization to intercede after Chavez blocked the import of some Colombian goods in protest of the US military pact.
After the United States, the neighbouring Andean countries are each other’s second biggest trade partners. Commerce last year between Colombia and Venezuela was more than $7 billion.
Colombia says the blocking of imports has exacerbated the country’s recession and hurt an export sector already clobbered by low global demand brought by the world financial crisis.
Washington sees Uribe as a buffer against Chavez and other socialists in the region such as Rafael Correa of Ecuador, a country that also shares a border with Colombia.
The three leaders have all moved to extend their time in power through Constitutional changes allowing for re-election.

Pic: President Hugo Chaves of Venezuela