SANTA MARTA, Colombia - One leader sometimes wears a red beret and calls himself a revolutionary. The other prefers pressed white shirts and considers himself a no-nonsense crusader against a bloody leftist insurgency. Presidents Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Alvaro Uribe of Colombia are diametrically opposed in style and ideology, but they have largely put aside their differences and overcome disputes over the years, building what appears to be an uncommon friendship. Meeting Saturday, the two laughed and recited verses by South American independence hero Simon Bolivar as they marked the 175th anniversary of his death at the hacienda where he spent his final hours. Uribe, whose close ties with President Bush contrast with Chavez's frequent criticism of United States "imperialism," assured Chavez he would not allow Colombia to serve as a base for opponents who may be plotting to overthrow the leftist leader. After studying documents provided by Chavez, Uribe said he had confirmed that a group of former Venezuelan military officers recently went to a government building in Bogota to meet with Colombian military officers. Uribe offered no details about the meeting but said he took full responsibility and had issued a warning that no conspiracy against Chavez would be tolerated. "A country such as Colombia that is affected by terrorism cannot permit that it be used as a base for conspiracies against the democracies of our brother nations," Uribe said. After returning to Venezuela, Chavez called the Venezuelan ex-officers coup-plotters and traitors. "Do you think they'll surprise me again? No!" Chavez said Sunday on his radio and television show. The two leaders' countries are bound through trade and a shared border — the source of several spats over the years. Chavez and Uribe overcame their worst diplomatic dispute in February after the capture in Venezuela of a Colombian rebel by bounty hunters who delivered him to Colombian police. Weeks of bitter recriminations gave way to pledges of deeper cooperation on border security. Apart from the discussions of the alleged coup-plotters, the meeting in Santa Marta, 465 miles north of Bogota, was upbeat, at times even playful. Chavez, a close ally of Cuba's Fidel Castro, called Uribe "my brother." Uribe said when asked about their differences that "a higher truth" emerges whenever they debate. "That's a Marxist point of view," Chavez joked, drawing laughter from an audience of government officials with a reference to the Marxist tenet that change takes place through a struggle of opposites. Uribe, who like Chavez enjoys strong popular support ahead of 2006 elections, replied wryly that many of his university classmates were Marxists and he studied their slogans well because he was a leading opponent of their ideology. The meeting came a day after a rare confrontation between the U.S. and Uribe, who has sought a free-trade deal with Washington while taking a hard-line approach against leftist rebels. Uribe sharply criticized U.S. Ambassador William Wood for "meddling" after Wood urged Colombia to better prevent right-wing paramilitary groups from tainting next year's elections through corruption. When a reporter asked Uribe if he was distancing himself from Washington, Chavez smiled widely and turned to the Colombian leader — also interested in what he would say. "This is not the moment nor the place to talk about the issue," Uribe replied.