“LET'S not waste a day on our main aim: to prepare for war and to help people prepare for war, because it's everyone's responsibility” -President Chavez of Venezuela in a radio broadcast to the Venezuelan people. To show that he is already well prepared for war, he has ordered 15'000 troops to the well-armed border with Colombia. Is President Obama about to have another conflict to worry about? Any war in South America would be worrying but Chavez's call to “defend the homeland” is of particular concern to the United States because it has very recently concluded a deal with Colombia to enable it to establish bases in that country and to conduct anti-drug trafficking and anti-terrorism operations from them.

There is nothing new about hostilities between Colombia and Venezuela. They share a 1'400 mile long border which is frequently crossed by guerrillas of both sides. Thus far such incidents have been contained but, regardless of American protestations about the non-threatening nature of its bases in Colombia, that deal was always likely to heighten tensions and provide Chavez with an opportunity to claim that the US has Venezuela's oil in its sights. The Colombian president has called on the UN and the Organisation of American States to intervene but the latter is now quite likely to support Venezuela as left-wing government have taken over in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua.


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