Venezuela arrests more Colombians


Venezuela has arrested 19 Colombians accused of carrying illegal arms and cutting trees, in the latest of a series of such incidents stoking animosity between the Andean neighbors, state media said today.

Colombia warned its citizens last month against visiting Venezuela after about 20 Colombians were arrested and accused of spying on president Hugo Chavez's government.

Mirroring a political division across Latin America, Mr Chavez's socialist administration has been squabbling for years with US ally and right-wing Colombian president Alvaro Uribe.

Bilateral trade has ground to a virtual halt and violent incidents have increased along their lengthy border, where various rebel groups and smuggling gangs operate.

Radio Nacional said the 19 Colombians were picked up in central Miranda state. "It is not discounted that they might belong to a military cell," the state radio station quoted local mayor Juan Aponte as saying.

It said the Colombians were "indiscriminately" chopping down trees, as well as carrying guns and ammunition.

Colombia holds a presidential election at the end of this month, and Mr Chavez has said he will not re-establish relations if former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos wins.