July 13, 2008 / 8:51 PM / 11 years ago

Chavez slams Colombian defense minister as U.S. pawn

CARACAS, July 13 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Sunday slammed Colombia’s defense minister as a pawn of the United States, two days after agreeing with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe to end months of bitter feuding.

The self-styled revolutionary Chavez and the pro-Washington Uribe agreed on Friday to halt their war of words and fortify $6 billion in annual trade between the two countries, though analysts expect them to continue bickering.

Chavez bashed comments by Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and told Uribe to silence him.

“(Santos) is a threat that we have, I want to denounce it here and call on my friend, President Uribe, to put his Defense Minister in his place,” Chavez said during a televised speech.

“Who gives (Santos) his orders? The United States.”

Chavez in March ordered troops and tanks to the border with Colombia in the Andes’ worst diplomatic crisis in a decade after Colombian troops killed a Marxist rebel leader in a cross-border raid into neighboring Ecuador.

The leftist leader has frequently accused Uribe of advancing the interests of the United States by receiving billions of dollars in military aid, and has charged Uribe with conspiring with Washington to invade Venezuela.

Uribe has accused Chavez of supporting Marxist guerrillas in Colombia and even said he would take Chavez to international court on genocide charges for backing the FARC rebel group.

Colombia this month free 15 hostages held by the FARC, including three Americans and French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt, scoring a major victory for Uribe and upstaging Chavez’s previous mediation in Colombia’s civil war. (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth, Editing by Anthony Boadle)

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