Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hopes Colombia's next leader wants dialogue, and says he will be first to pick up the phone if a clear winner emerges from this weekend's Colombian presidential election.
The Andean neighbors have been locked in a feud that has battered bilateral trade and led to frequent sniping between Venezuela's socialist leader and incumbent Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, Washington's main ally in the region.
"I do not meddle in Colombia's internal affairs ... but hopefully their electoral process ends well and the next president is someone we can speak to, who we can reach basic agreements with, with respect," Chavez said in a speech late on Thursday to members of his political party.
Opinion polls suggest there is unlikely to be a clear winner from Sunday's vote, meaning Uribe's former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos and former Bogota mayor Antanas Mockus will compete again in a June 20 run-off.
"It seems there will not be a first round winner," Chavez said. "But if there is, I would be the first to grab the telephone, place a call, greet the new president of Colombia and hopefully begin a new phase."
The Venezuelan leader's comments were more conciliatory than remarks he made earlier this month, when he said a Santos victory would be a disaster for efforts to repair relations.
Chavez and Santos have often sparred. Santos says he and Chavez are like "oil and water," but urges mutual respect. The Venezuelan accuses Colombia's elite of plotting against him, singling out Santos as a "threat" to the region.
Whoever wins, investors see little chance of a shift from Uribe's security and pro-business policies. Both candidates promise continuity with measures to create jobs and tackle Colombia's fiscal deficit by raising more tax revenue.
ReutersLast Mod: 29 Mayıs 2010, 09:25