Foreign Policy Blogs

Chavez and Uribe Trade Barbs

A private meeting between the Venezuelan and Colombian leaders apparently ended in a shouting match on Monday. They were both attending a Latin American summit in Cancun, Mexico.

An already tense discussion appeared to blow up when Chávez raised the issue of Colombian paramilitaries.

The explanation of the words used is critical, since the meeting did not include tape recordings, video, or photos.

The Telegraph (London) and Noticias24 reported that Uribe called Chávez a “coward”.

On the other hand, El Tiempo (out of Bogota) reported Uribe as saying (my translation) “Be a man and stay here to argue in person”, and “Sometimes you insult at a distance, but when you are face to face we do not talk”. Chávez’s response was: “Go to hell!”

Ultimas Noticias, a pro-government newspaper in Venezuela put a different face on the exchange, with Chávez explaining that one has to respond when “they spit in your face”. He explained that he is open to talking to Uribe again and that “it is an obligation for the two” of them. In this version there was no mention of anyone going to hell.

This is a reminder of the spin that each side (and external parties such as papers in the UK or US) puts on the very same event. In the end, while translations may vary, what is not in doubt is that tensions between the two leaders – and their countries – remain high.



David D. Sussman

David D. Sussman is currently a PhD Candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (Tufts University), in Boston, Massachusetts. Serving as a fellow at the Feinstein International Center, he was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study the lives of Colombian refugees and economic migrants in Caracas, Venezuela. David has worked on a variety of migrant issues that include the health of displaced persons, domestic resettlement of refugees, and structured labor-migration programs. He holds a Masters in International Relations from the Fletcher School, where he studied the integration of Somali and Salvadoran immigrants. David has a B.A. from Dartmouth College and is fluent in Spanish. He has lived in Colombia, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Venezuela, and also traveled throughout Latin America. In his free time David enjoys reading up on international news, playing soccer, cooking arepas, and dancing salsa casino. Areas of Focus: Latin America; Migration; Venezuela.