Colombian and Venezuelan Bishops Maintain Relations

Despite Breakdown in Diplomatic Ties

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BOGOTA, Colombia, JULY 26, 2010 ( The episcopal conferences of Colombia and Venezuela will continue to work together, despite rising tensions between the two countries after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez broke diplomatic ties with Colombia last week.
The move on the part of Venezuela came after President Álvaro Uribe accused Venezuela of harboring Colombian rebel commanders and fighters within its borders. Chavez severed all ties with its neighbor saying Colombia was launching a smear campaign against Venezuela.

Archbishop Jesús Rubén Salazar Gómez of Bogota, president of the Episcopal Conference of Colombia, said in a statement on the conference’s Web page that he hoped there would “again be relations of peace and fraternity” between the two nations.
“It makes no sense that we are unable to solve the problems — our peoples deserve to live in peace,” the archbishop said in comments to journalists at a meeting of the Latin American Episcopal Council on the reconstruction efforts in Haiti.

The president of the Colombian episcopate stressed the need to overcome the “climate of mutual distrust” between both governments and noted that Colombia’s President-elect Juan Manuel Santos has expressed the great importance of having good relations with neighboring countries.

Archbishop Ubaldo Ramón Santana Sequera of Maracaibo, president of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, explained that, although “the situation is worrying,” he hopes that the episcopates of Colombia and Venezuela will be able to “continue working together, giving witness of fraternity.”
“We hope that any war-like conflict will be dispelled between the nations. Together we must seek ways that are not those of war,” said the archbishop of Maracaibo.
Questioned by journalists on the presence of Colombian guerrillas in Venezuela, Archbishop Santana Sequera said that “there are too many testimonies of an easy circulation (of insurgents) over our borders.”
“A greater presence of the government is needed in border areas,” he added. “We are leaving too many gaps for those groups to circulate.”

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