Sunday, December 18, 2005

Uribe and Chávez liking each other

...the meeting in Santa Marta, 465 miles north of Bogota, was upbeat, at times even playful.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro, called Uribe "my brother." Uribe said when asked about their differences that "a higher truth" emerges whenever they debate.

"That's a Marxist point of view," Chavez joked, drawing laughter from an audience of government officials with a reference to the Marxist tenet that change takes place through a struggle of opposites.

Uribe, who like Chavez enjoys strong popular support ahead of 2006 elections, replied wryly that many of his university classmates were Marxists and he studied their slogans well because he was a leading opponent of their ideology.

The meeting came a day after a rare confrontation between the U.S. and Uribe, who has sought a free-trade deal with Washington while taking a hard-line approach against leftist rebels.

Uribe sharply criticized U.S. Ambassador William Wood for "meddling" after Wood urged Colombia to better prevent right-wing paramilitary groups from tainting next year's elections through corruption.

When a reporter asked Uribe if he was distancing himself from Washington, Chavez smiled widely and turned to the Colombian leader — also interested in what he would say.

"This is not the moment nor the place to talk about the issue," Uribe replied.

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