CARACAS (AFP) — President Hugo Chavez on Saturday charged that the United States and Colombia were plotting an incident that would spark a war with Venezuela.
"I alert the world of the following," said Chavez, speaking at the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) summit. "The US empire is creating conditions to generate an armed conflict between Colombia and Venezuela."
Chavez, who made a similar accusation on Friday, did not offer proof, but did point to January visits to Colombia by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff; and US 'drug czar' John Walters.
"Colombia is already taken over by the US empire," argued Chavez.
Chavez has many times said the United States is planning to kill him or topple his leftist government.
The Venezuelan leader also blasted Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos, who on Friday said, without offering proof, that at least three leaders of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas were living in Venezuela.
Chavez also referred to an "adulterated video" in which the mayor of the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo is seen delivering weapons and supplies to another Colombian rebel group, the National Liberation Army (ELN).
"In a gesture of madness of that rancid oligarchy," Chavez said, Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos Calderon "has said that, since that mayor is supporting the guerrillas, they are going to capture him and take him to Colombia. For that, war then."
Ties between Bogota and Caracas are at their lowest point in years, after Uribe in November asked Chavez to stop his mediating role in the release of FARC hostages.
Chavez's belligerent talk is designed to rally the nation around him at a time that he is losing political support, a former top Venezuelan official told Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper.
"I plead with the Colombian people to ignore this, ignore all this verbiage and lack of respect," said Venezuelan general Raul Baduel, a former defense minister under Chavez.
The ALBA group -- Venezuela, Cuba, Nicaragua and Bolivia -- at this gathering welcomed a new member, Dominica. They like-minded nations are, according to Chavez, determined to counter the "dictatorship of global capitalism."
ALBA also launched a regional development bank with start-up capital of one billion dollars.
"We are breaking a vehicle of capitalism," Chavez added. "This bank is a political instrument, for social and economic development; we'll just say it, there is no reason not to," added Chavez whose country's oil earnings fund most of the bank.
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