President Hugo Chavez said Sunday he is putting relations with Colombia "in the freezer" after its president, Alvaro Uribe, ended the Venezuelan leader's role mediating with leftist rebels in the neighboring country.
Chavez did not give details about what effects the decision would have, but he said Uribe's actions were like "a spit in the face" and that Colombia "deserves a better president."
"I declare before the world that I'm putting relations with Colombia in the freezer because I've completely lost confidence with everyone in the Colombian government," Chavez said during a televised speech.
Chavez was responding to Uribe's decision to cancel Chavez's mediation with Colombian rebels, preliminary talks aimed at a prisoner swap that would free rebel-held hostages, including three Americans. Uribe's spokesman said Chavez had defied the Colombian president by directly contacting his army chief to discuss the issue.
Chavez said a statement issued by Uribe's government giving its reasons for ending the Venezuelan leader's mediation was "filled with lies."
"I really, truly believe that the Colombian government doesn't want peace," Chavez said. He complained Uribe had not valued his efforts to negotiate with the rebels.
Chavez said he was particularly irked that Uribe had his officials issue statements instead of contacting the Venezuelan leader directly.
"Why don't do you show your face?" Chavez said. "President Uribe is lying ... in a shameless, horrible, ugly way. I think Colombia deserves another president, it deserves a better president."
The two South American countries are major trading partners, and it remains unclear how the spat could affect trade.
Chavez in August joined Colombian lawmakers in a new push to free hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, better known as FARC. Prisoners include three U.S. military contractors and Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian seized in 2002 while campaigning for Colombia's presidency.