Maduro invokes 'Gran Colombia' nostalgia

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro jacked up tensions with neighboring Colombia, telling his counterpart Juan Manuel Santos, "Bow down to me, I am your father" (Inclínate e híncate ante tu padre, soy tu padre). The nationally broadcast statement came after Santos had offered to mediate a resolution to the crisis in Venezuela, where clashes between security forces and opposition protesters have killed more than 70 this year. The violence has also spurred an increase in cross-border migration, mainly from Colombian residents of Venezuela. In rejecting the offer July 6, Maduro insinuated Venezuelan supremacy over its neighbor: "We were a single republic, Colombia was founded here in Orinoco. The people of Guayana are the fathers of Colombia, our grandparents founded Colombia." (Éramos una sola unión de República, Colombia se fundó aquí en el Orinoco, ustedes guayaneses son los padres de Colombia, nuestros abuelos fundaron Colombia.) He then went on to demand obeisance. 

This was a reference to Venezuela's southeastern Guayana region, which borders Colombia's eastern plains and through which Simón Bolívar liberated much of what is now Colombia (then New Grenada) from Spanish rule in 1819. Bolívar subsequently ruled over both the contemporary nations (as well as Ecuador and Panama) under the Republic of Gran Colombia until his death 1830, when the federation collapsed. Maduro made his comments while on a visit to the Venezuelan state of Bolívar, which covers much of Guayana region.

Colombia's Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin dismissed Maduro's remarks, telling reporters: "I believe we have really big problems, a very complex situation [that is] difficult for Venezuelans." Colombia and Venezuela have for years gone through a cycle of diplomatic tension followed by reconciliation. (Colombia Reports, July 8; RT, July 7; RCN Radio, El Espectador, Bogotá, RPP, Lima, July 6)