Venezuela warns Colombia amid latest tensions

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's defense minister on Friday warned Colombia against provoking a conflict after President Hugo Chavez severed ties with the neighboring country and placed his military on alert.
Defense Minister Carlos Mata read a statement on state television promising "a strong response" if foreign forces cross into Venezuelan territory.
Despite the tensions, cars and pedestrians moved between the countries as usual at border crossings Friday, officials on both sides said. Venezuelan Vice President Elias Jaua called the situation on the border normal.
Trade between Venezuela and Colombia has fallen 70 percent since Chavez froze relations a year ago in response to Colombia's decision to grant the US military expanded access to its military bases. The scaled-back relations have also hurt Venezuelan consumers, as sporadic shortages of items like beef — once imported from Colombia — have worsened.