Tue, Feb 22, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Colombian relations with Venezuela are tense over murder

AP , Bogota, Colombia

Venezuela's government will investigate allegations that a Colombian rebel who was living in Caracas played a role in the kidnapping and murder of a former Paraguayan president's daughter, a top official said.

The Venezuelan government "will cooperate to clarify the events and if need be, establish responsibility," said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez, who was in Bogota Sunday for a meeting with his Colombian counterpart.

Earlier this week, Paraguayan Attorney General Oscar Latorre linked Rodrigo Granda, a member of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to the kidnapping of Cecilia Cubas, 32, the daughter of former Paraguayan President Raul Cubas.

Latorre said Granda, who has Venezuelan citizenship and was living in Caracas until his arrest in December, had exchanged various e-mails and may have met with a Paraguayan who has been arrested in Cubas' kidnapping. The body of Cecilia Cubas was found Wednesday, some five months after she was kidnapped.

Rodriguez's visit to Bogota was aimed primarily at tying up loose ends from a political dispute -- since resolved -- between Colombia and Venezuela that began with the arrest of Granda.

Colombian police paid bounty hunters to capture Granda in Caracas and take him to the Colombia-Venezuela border, where he was arrested by Colombian police. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said the abduction was a violation of his country's sovereignty because Colombian authorities did not seek approval from Venezuela.

Chavez temporarily placed trade restrictions on Colombia but after meeting with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Tuesday, he said he would lift those restrictions.

After their meeting Sunday, Barco and Rodriguez officially reactivated normal trade relations and also resumed plans to build a US$150 million gas pipeline connecting the two nations.

Barco and Rodriguez issued a joint statement calling for "constant and open dialogue between the two governments so any issue that might endanger regional stability can be overcome quickly and efficiently."

Rodriguez also reiterated that Venezuela's plans to buy 100,000 assault rifles from Russia is necessary "to replace unusable guns that are 50 years old."

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