Venezuela: Brazil’s Lula trying to cool Colombia dispute

CARACAS,  (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said yesterday that former Brazilian leader Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was trying to arrange a meeting between Maduro and his Colombian counterpart to help resolve a dispute between the South American neighbours.

Last month, Maduro accused Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos of “betrayal” after Santos met Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles. Relations were often strained during the 14-year rule of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

Santos has dismissed as “crazy” Maduro’s allegations that he had been plotting with Capriles to topple the Venezuelan leader, who narrowly won an election against Capriles in April.

“The ball’s in your court, President Santos,” Maduro said in a televised speech yesterday.

“Lula has made contacts for a possible face-to-face meeting between the president and myself,” Maduro said.

“Until now, we’ve had respectful relations, including regular conversations. … He (Santos) knows what he did, and he knows it was a mistake.”

Maduro, the political heir of Chavez, who died in March, said the meeting between Santos and Capriles had made him review bilateral ties and call home his envoy to peace talks in Cuba between the Colombian government and Marxist FARC rebels.

The head of Bogota’s negotiating team in Cuba said last week he hoped Colombia and Venezuela could patch up their differences because Caracas’ presence had been helpful for the negotiations, which are aimed at ending five decades of war.

In the past, Maduro has accused the United States and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe of plotting to kill him.

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