BOGOTA – BOGOTA (AP) — President Alvaro Uribe accused his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chavez, on Monday of meddling in Colombia's presidential election campaign by trying to influence the outcome of the vote.
Uribe's comments came a day after the socialist Chavez said he hopes for improved relations with Colombia's next president, but warned that efforts to reduce tensions would face serious obstacles if Uribe's ally — former Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos — wins the May 30 election.
The Venezuelan leader, who has repeatedly clashed with Uribe and Santos, also said Colombia's government could become a threat to its neighbors if Santos is elected.
"It's an insult to the Colombian people that a foreign government attempts to coerce their free political will to pick the next president," Uribe said.
He accused Chavez of trying to "intimidate" Colombians by warning that a Santos victory could lead to armed conflict.
"The Colombian people are not going to accept this blackmail," said Uribe, whose term ends Aug. 7.
Santos is among the favorites to win Colombia's presidential election.
After lambasting Santos on Sunday, Chavez denied he is trying to influence the outcome of the vote.
Relations between Chavez and Uribe have been rocky for years, but frictions have worsened in recent months over Colombia's agreement to give the U.S. increased access to its military bases in the war on drugs — a deal that Chavez calls a threat to Venezuela.
Colombia, meanwhile, accuses Chavez's government of supporting Colombia's Marxist rebels. Chavez rejects the allegation.