Filed under: July Volume I- 2008, Latino/Caribe, Politics | Tags: Chavez, farc, Venezuela
The Associated Press recently corrected an article which claimed that Chavez “urged world leaders to back the [FARC] armed struggle”. The correction mentions that the day after calling the FARC an “army” back in January, the Venezuelan president said, “I don’t agree with the armed struggle,” and called for a political resolution.
Colombia announced last month the opening of an international investigation based on computer files allegedly belonging to former FARC negotiator Raul Reyes.
The investigation will probe contacts between the leftist FARC rebels and prominent politicians, journalists and foreigners, including a U.S. consultant, the AP reported. The prosecutor, Mario Iguaran, also asked the Colombian Supreme Court to look into three opposition lawmakers including Senator Piedad Cordoba, who helped Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez broker the release of six rebel hostages earlier this year.
The foreigners placed under investigation include two Ecuadoreans, a Venezuelan and an American alternative development expert James C. Jones, who has been working with Democrats in the U.S. Congress.
Venezuela Analysis reported on June 12, however, that representatives of the International Police Organization (Interpol) told Ecuadorian Presidential Adviser Fernando Bustamante, in a meeting, that its investigation of the laptop computers which Colombia claims belonged to the FARC “does not determine if the computers provided were found in the guerrilla camp of the FARC during the incursion on March 1st; [nor] if they effectively belonged to Raúl Reyes, and even less so their contents,” according to a recent missive released by the Ecuadorian Foreign Relations Ministry.
Senator Cordoba told students in the western city of Cali that the investigation amounted to “an attack on reason.”
She said she’s been working for a prisoner swap “because I have a mandate from the families.” Cordoba’s close ties to Venezuelan President Chavez and her appearance in group photos with FARC leaders have upset conservative Colombians who overwhelmingly back Uribe’s efforts to defeat the FARC militarily with billions of dollars in U.S. aid, said the AP.
The other two Colombian lawmakers under investigation are Sen. Gloria Ines Ramirez and Rep. Wilson Borja, a former union leader who survived a 2000 assassination attempt by a right-wing death squad.
Cordoba is also a survivor of 2 assasination attempts, was kidnapped in 1999 by the AUC paramilitary group, and recently held up by immigration on a flight to NYC.
The Venezuelan placed under investigation is also a Chavez ally.
After the announcement of the investigation, the non-government organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) requested that the Venezuelan government “provide a full accounting of its relationship” with the FARC. Venezuela’s Ambassador to the OAS responded to the request by saying that HRW is joining with forces that want to oust President Chavez, Venezuela Analysis reported. HRW urged President Hugo Chávez to officially ban support for the FARC, and asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to investigate Venezuela’s relationship with the Colombian insurgents. The group also criticized Chávez for expressing sympathy for the FARC and for advocating that the FARC be treated as a political rather than a terrorist organization to help facilitate negotiations.
HRW has not had direct access to the computer files, according to the organization’s press release. Requests for access to these files, even by the Colombian Supreme Court, have so far gone unheeded by the Colombian and U.S. governments, in whose custody the files remain.
In the fallout of the March smart bomb which killed Raul Reyes, but left his computer intact to the point of retrieving valuable information, authorities of eleven countries have also requested from the Colombian government the computer files on Reyes’ computer after it was alleged that it also contained communications with people living in those countries. The countries mentioned by Universal News included: Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico, Venezuela and Spain.
Jose Miguel Vivanco of HRW judged that “for any government to support a guerrilla group like the FARC that routinely commits atrocities against civilians is entirely beyond the pale.” He specifically referred to Chávez’s pronouncements in January 2008 that the FARC have “a political and Bolivarian project that is respected here [in Venezuela],” and Chávez’s call for a moment of silence to observe the death of Raul Reyes in March.
President Hugo Chavez subsequently denounced the FARC’s tactics. “The guerrilla war is history,” he said. “At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place.” In his weekly Sunday television and radio program, Chavez urged the new FARC leader Alfonso Cano to “let all these people go.” “There are old folk, women, sick people, soldiers who have been prisoners in the mountains for 10 years,” he added. The announcement was hailed by the United States officials as “good words,” but Chavez had also said back in January during the uproar over his alleged FARC support, “I don’t agree with the armed struggle.”
In an effort to clear its name, the Ecuadorian government has already committed to investigating Colombia’s accusations that Ecuador offered refuge to the rebels.
President Chavez has repeatedly denied that Venezuela provided any kind of material support to the FARC and that the only contacts his government has had with the FARC has been to facilitate the release of hostages held by the FARC. In early 2008 Chavez managed to convince the FARC to release six out of 45 of its high profile hostages.
At the UNASUR summit in Brazil, Chavez met with Colombia’s president Alvaro Uribe behind closed doors. In a relaxed atmosphere, Uribe promised Chavez’s 6 year old daughter that she would be able to see peace as an adult, commenting to her on the merits of mutual respect. Chavez and Uribe spoke at length. [I told Uribe] “we will not meddle in the internal problems of Colombia,” Chavez commented afterwards, “our message is of peace.”
“Here, I ask for the world’s help… enough of so much war, the hour to sit down and talk of peace has arrived, we call on the world to seek this path,” he said.
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