CARACAS, Venezuela, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- U.S. assurances that its military operations in Colombia are not part of a wider agenda on Latin American domination have left Venezuela unmoved as Caracas struggles to balance a domestic power crisis with a strident populist foreign policy.
President Hugo Chavez raised temperatures as he declared the country was on a war footing with Colombia, which recently signed wide-ranging agreements with the United States to facilitate a wider U.S. military force deployed at Colombian military bases to battle narcotics warlords. Colombia is a major route for cocaine and heroin trafficked in North America.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ian Kelly told reporters the Obama administration stands by its intention to promote cooperation rather than confrontation. He was asked to comment on tensions between Colombia and Venezuela.
"The U.S. has no aggressive intentions in Colombia and, through the Defense Cooperation Agreement, will conduct counter drug operations and interdiction programs," Kelly said in a reference to the Colombian-U.S. defense accords.
On the latest recrimination between Venezuela and Colombia, mostly the result of sharp pronouncements from Chavez, Kelly said, "More dialogue and cooperative efforts are necessary between the two countries." The United States has avoided being drawn into a tit-for-tat war of words with Chavez.
Although most of Colombia's neighbors have voiced opinion about the Colombia-U.S. military ties, Chavez has been in the forefront of an international campaign combining fiery rhetoric with an ambitious rearmament program.
Chavez has intensified arms buying and sharpened the invective aimed at Colombia at a time that oddly coincides with a gathering disquiet at home over the government's handling of the water and power crisis.
Power and water rationing is in force in the capital and other areas in Venezuela because of severe shortages.
The government blames the El Nino phenomenon for drying up water reservoirs that keep the power generation turbines going. Critics fault the government for not acting in a timely manner and for neglect over many years of required investment in the power generation sector.
The only time the government demonstrated proactive interest in the power generation sector was when it embarked on a wholesale nationalization of the utilities -- with disastrous consequences, according to the critics.
Despite an oil-fueled economy with ample cash available for revolutionary ventures, income disparities bedevil Venezuelan society. Infrastructural development has lagged behind other Latin American countries that have lesser national income and natural resources.
A spate of dismissals in the oil industry also threatens delicate balances required to administer the country's oil wealth, analysts said.