Chavez warns Colombia not to stir up armed conflict

Meanwhile, Colombian rebels announce they will free three hostages because of health problems.

Chavez 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Chavez 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Venezuela's military is on alert for possible threats from Colombia, said Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, warning the neighboring government not to try to stir up an armed conflict. Chavez said he believes Colombia's government is capable of doing Washington's bidding in trying to generate a conflict. "We're on alert. The Bolivarian Armed Force (of Venezuela) is on alert," Chavez said in a televised speech Saturday night. "Because we don't know how far it could go." "We don't want to hurt anybody, but no one should make a mistake with us," Chavez said. He did not elaborate but warned that if Colombia attempts any "aggression" against Venezuela with US backing, "they will regret it for 100 years." Chavez's comments largely echoed his accusations a week earlier, when he accused the US and Colombia of plotting a "military aggression." Chavez has repeatedly accused Washington of plotting to oust or kill him, claims US officials deny. "Lamentably in Colombia the oligarchy governs," Chavez said. "It's possible that Colombian government could lend itself to a military action against Venezuela." Chavez issued his warning Saturday in a wide-ranging speech marking the ninth anniversary of his inauguration as president. He also reviewed his government's accomplishments in poverty-reduction efforts and areas from education to health care. He said Venezuela should enforce broadcast rules with a "hard hand," and warned - as the country confronts sporadic shortages of some basic foods - that any companies hoarding food would be seized by the government. Meanwhile, Colombian radio Caracol says leftist rebels have announced they will liberate three hostages, all held for more than six years, because of health problems. In a statement reprinted on the radio station's web site on Sunday, rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, said they would release three politicians, Gloria Polanco, Luis Eladio Perez and Orlando Beltran, all kidnapped in 2001. Without putting a date on their liberation, the FARC said that it would like to free the hostages to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez or a delegate chosen by him.