August 1, 2008
CARTAGENA, Colombia (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez failed to show up for a narcotics summit of Latin American leaders on Friday and his government said he did not attend because of security concerns.
Chavez, a fierce foe of the United States who often blasts U.S. counter-narcotics efforts in the region, had said on Thursday he would attend the summit led by Colombia, Mexico and other Latin American and Caribbean nations to debate cooperation against trafficking and drug-related violence.
"Security reasons have prompted us to decide that President Hugo Chavez should not participate directly and he has sent a delegation instead," Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro told reporters on arriving in the Caribbean city of Cartagena.
Chavez, a self-styled revolutionary, has called the U.S. war against drugs a failure and an "imperialist" attempt to gain a foothold in Latin America.
He has ended cooperation with U.S. anti-drugs agents after charging they were spying on his left-wing government. U.S. officials say he has made Venezuela a haven for traffickers, charges he dismisses as propaganda.
In contrast, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is a staunch White House ally who has received billions of dollars in U.S. aid to combat traffickers and leftist guerrillas.