(Reuters) – President Hugo Chavez warned Colombia on Saturday it would be a “cause for war” if its forces struck inside Venezuelan territory as they did in Ecuador killing a top Colombian rebel commander there.“Don’t be thinking that you can do that here … because it would be extremely serious and would be a causa belli, a cause for war, (if there is) a military incursion in Venezuelan territory. There’s no excuse,” Chavez said in his most belligerent comments to date in a diplomatic dispute with Bogota.
Colombia’s military said troops killed Raul Reyes, a leader of Marxist FARC rebels, during an attack on a jungle camp in Ecuador in a severe blow to Latin America’s oldest guerrilla insurgency. The operation included air strikes and fighting with rebels across the border.
Chavez has been at odds with U.S.-backed Colombian President Alvaro Uribe over the Venezuelan’s mediation with the FARC, or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, over the release of hostages held by the rebels.
The outspoken, anti-U.S. Chavez has called Uribe a pawn of the United States in the superpower’s plans to attack Venezuela. Colombia and the United States deny the accusation from Chavez who regularly says without providing evidence that Washington is plotting his ouster.
Chavez has withdrawn his ambassador from Bogota and in recent weeks insulted Uribe during his speeches.
(Reporting by Patricia Rondon; Writing by Saul Hudson; Editing by Peter Cooney)