Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Hugo Chavez, FARC and now.... AlQaida?

Gustavo Coronel is an excellent writer and he knows Venezuelans problem very well. You can check his blog at:
vdebate reporter
Hugo Chavez, FARC and now... Al Qaida?
Un Boeing 727, de Venezuela, llevaba cocaína a Mali.

A report in the UK Guardian speculates that the drug traffic passing through Mali seems to be more and more controlled by Al Qaida, possibly in association with the Colombian FARC. This is interesting, as the Boeing 727 carrying cocaine that recently landed and subsequently crashed on take-off in Mali was Venezuelan. This suggests the possibility that the Venezuelan regime of Hugo Chavez could be linking forces with Al Qaida, in a similar manner to its already existing links with the FARC. Says the report (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/nov/29/drugs-cocaine-africa-al-qaida) :
“Professor Stephen Ellis of Amsterdam's Free University, an expert on west Africa's drugs trade, said that several reports suggested that the airstrip was in a region controlled by the group known as "al-Qaida in the land of the Islamic Maghreb". Previously known as the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, it was responsible for a spate of car bombings in Algeria in 2007 that left dozens dead, including at least 11 UN staff.
"Until now, there is no evidence they have had a direct interest in the drug trade," said Ellis. "But if the airstrip was controlled by al-Qaida, it suggests there is direct contact between them and Latin American drug interests."
The Home Office estimates that 50% of the cocaine that enters the UK comes from west Africa. Two years ago the government put the figure at under 30%.
Like manufacturers taking advantage of cheaper labour by moving their plants abroad, the major Colombian drugs gangs have exploited west Africa's political instability, poorly funded law enforcement agencies, endemic corruption and porous borders. But a link with terrorist networks would add a new dimension.
It is not only al-Qaida that may be involved. A briefing prepared for the US Congress speculated that west Africa's substantial Lebanese trading community – strong supporters of Hezbollah – have been buying the drug from the paramilitary group Farc, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia”. .

By Gustavo Coronel

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Rockets for terrorists. Will there be any consequence for "Hugo Chavez"?

Hugo Chavez and his government are the only responsibles for this terrorism, no the people of Venezuela.
Washington Post Editorial, Friday, July 31, 2009

Rockets for Terrorists - Will there be any consequence for Venezuela's material support for Colombian insurgents?


WHEN THE Colombian government last year unveiled extensive evidence that the government of Venezuela had collaborated with a Colombian rebel movement known for terrorism and drug trafficking, other Latin American governments and the United States mostly chose to look the other way. The evidence was contained on laptops captured in a controversial raid by the Colombian army on a guerrilla base in Ecuador. Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez denounced the e-mails and documents as forgeries, and the potential consequences of concluding that Venezuela was supporting a terrorist organization against a democratic government -- which could include mandatory U.S. sanctions and referral to the U.N. Security Council -- were more than the Bush administration was prepared to contemplate.

Now Colombia has made public evidence that will be even more difficult to ignore. In a raid on a camp of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC), a group officially designated a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union, Colombian forces captured sophisticated, Swedish-produced antitank rockets. A Swedish investigation confirmed that they were originally sold to the Venezuelan army by the arms manufacturer Saab. What's more, FARC e-mails from the laptops captured in Ecuador appear to refer to the weapons; in one, a FARC operative in Caracas reports discussing delivery of the arms in a 2007 meeting with two top Venezuelan generals, including the director of military intelligence, Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios.

Colombia privately asked Mr. Chávez's government for an explanation of the rockets several months ago; Sweden is now asking as well. But the only response has been public bluster by the Venezuelan caudillo, who on Tuesday withdrew his ambassador from Colombia and threatened to close the border to trade. If he follows through, U.S. drug authorities may well be pleased: A report released last week by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said Venezuela had created a "permissive environment" for FARC that had allowed the group to massively increase its cocaine smuggling across that border. "By allowing illegal armed groups to elude capture and by providing material support, Venezuela has extended a lifeline to Colombian illegal armed groups, and their continued existence endangers Colombian security gains achieved with U.S. assistance," the GAO reported.

This all sounds an awful lot like material support for terrorism -- which raises the question of whether the State Department will look again at whether Mr. Chávez's government or its top officials belong on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. The Bush administration's Treasury Department last year imposed sanctions on Gen. Carvajal and several other officials for supporting the FARC's drug trafficking. But that hardly covers the supply of antitank rockets to a designated terrorist organization. At the moment, the State Department is busy applying sanctions to members of Honduras's de facto government, which is guilty of deposing one of Mr. Chávez's clients and would-be emulators. Perhaps soon it can turn its attention to those in the hemisphere who have been caught trying to overturn a democratic government by supplying terrorists with advanced weapons.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Los Angeles Times. Venezuela tolerates FARC rebels in border region, residents say

Obama is right, Chavez support the Colombian terrorist group:"FARC"
vdebate reporter
From the Los Angeles Times
Venezuela tolerates FARC rebels in border region, residents say
Indigenous communities in northwestern Zulia state complain that Colombian rebels are encroaching on their towns, taking their land and supplies and eroding their culture.
By Chris Kraul

January 21, 2009

Reporting from Tocuco, Venezuela — Members of Colombia's largest rebel group live openly on or near several Indian reservations in western Venezuela with at least the tacit approval of President Hugo Chavez, indigenous leaders here charge.

Although the border area has long absorbed Colombian refugees fleeing decades of war, members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia have become visible as never before in the last two or three years, buying supplies, looking for medical assistance and forging relationships with indigenous women, said Venezuelan Congressman Arcadio Montiel, a Wayuu Indian.

Leaders of several Indian communities clustered around this town in a wild rain forest area that forms the border with Colombia told The Times over the weekend that the FARC's presence is harming their culture and youth.

"They have replaced the caciques, or chiefs, as authority figures and so who do the youths now want to emulate? The rebels," said Javier Armato, a Yupa Indian who is a former Zulia state deputy and onetime Chavez supporter.

During his 10 years in office, socialist Chavez, a fierce critic of the United States, has often expressed admiration and affinity for the FARC. In 2007, Chavez said his country shared a border not with Colombia, but with territory controlled by the FARC.

Chavez has toned down his pro-FARC rhetoric since March, when Colombian officials said data from a laptop recovered in a raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador indicated that the Venezuelan leader may have had contact with FARC leaders, even offering them material support. Chavez denied any such contact.

"Chavez sees the rebels as a line of defense in the event of U.S. interference or a civil war," said Montiel, another former Chavista who broke with the president over the presence of the FARC in his home state, Zulia, and joined splinter party Podemos. He was interviewed last week in Caracas, the Venezuelan capital.

Montiel and several community leaders say the FARC operates camps in the Perija Mountains to the west, where they say the rebels rest and recruit and train Venezuelan Indian youths.

In an interview last year, Chavez political advisor Alberto Muller Rojas acknowledged the presence of Colombian rebels, saying that Venezuela has been a safe haven for more than 1 million Colombians fleeing war over the last several decades.

Muller Rojas said the rebels are more Colombia's responsibility than Venezuela's, as long as they don't harm residents.

But Indian leaders here say the rebels are slowly corrupting their cultures with arms, drugs and values that are anathema to their ways. They are also slowly taking control of Indian lands by squatting and by marrying indigenous women

On many Saturdays, rebel mule trains descend from the rugged Perija Mountains through the two dozen Indian communities that surround this town, indigenous leaders said.

After parking their mules in foothill pastures, the rebels continue on by bus into Machiques, the nearest big city, to make telephone calls, run business errands and go to a market, they said. The supplies are taken back up into the mountains.

At other times, they suddenly appear at doorways, seeking food, clothing or medicines.

"They don't pay for anything, it's always for 'solidarity. ' But you can't say no to them. Nor can you complain about them to others, because someone might inform on you," said one indigenous leader, who requested anonymity because of security concerns.

One reason more rebels are visible in Venezuela is the much more aggressive pursuit by Colombian armed forces under President Alvaro Uribe. But Montiel said it's also because the rebels are here at the "pleasure" of Chavez.

An official at the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in Machiques, which provides help to 800 Colombians registered as refugees, said that nobody from his office has had direct contact with Colombian rebels, but that he has received an increasing number of complaints from Indians over the last two years.

Some in the government insist that the supposed rebels are actually displaced Colombian civilians. But all indigenous leaders interviewed here last weekend disputed that.

"Everyone in the area knows who the displaced are because they register with the U.N. Believe me, the people we see are FARC. How do we know? Because they identify themselves as such," said one local leader, who like others interviewed declined to give his name for fear of reprisal

A Roman Catholic priest in the region says the rebels' presence has brought acts of terrorism. "I can't talk to you about them because they'll kill me," said the priest, who also requested anonymity for security reasons.

Although there is a National Guard post 20 miles southeast of here, leaders say the Venezuelan armed forces make no effort to monitor or control the rebels' presence, said Armato, who has had to live in the state capital, Maracaibo, since he first denounced the rebels several years ago.

There is a general climate of insecurity in the border area, with the Chavez government blaming it on Colombian paramilitary forces who cross the border to chase the rebels, while ranchers say the rebels are responsible for a recent wave of kidnappings

"Instead of making friends with the guerrillas, Chavez should be defending the diversity and plurality of the nation," Montiel said.

chris.kraul@ latimes.com

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Statement by John McCain on Venezuela

I like John McCain' Statement :
"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's authoritarian regime represses its people and is attempting to buy support in Bolivia and elsewhere. The threat posed by Chavez extends beyond his borders. He stands credibly accused of aiding terrorists trying to subvert a democratic neighbor in Colombia.
I am afraid that if Obama win he will forget about Chavez, like the actual OAS - Organization of American States.
Venezuelan that will vote in this American Elections

For Immediate Release
Contact: Press Office
Friday, September 12, 2008
ARLINGTON, VA -- Today, U.S. Senator John McCain delivered the following statement on Venezuela and Ambassador Duddy's expulsion by the Venezuelan government:

"I am deeply disappointed by the decision of Venezuela 's government to expel U.S. Ambassador Duddy. This diplomatic escalation, which follows Bolivia 's expulsion of the American ambassador there, reminds us anew of the dangerous trends in our own hemisphere.

"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's authoritarian regime represses its people and is attempting to buy support in Bolivia and elsewhere. The threat posed by Chavez extends beyond his borders. He stands credibly accused of aiding terrorists trying to subvert a democratic neighbor in Colombia . Senior Venezuelan military and intelligence officials have been named as supporters of narco-terrorist activities. Russian strategic bombers recently landed in Venezuela . Joint Russian-Venezuelan naval exercises in the Caribbean have been announced. Russia has provided Chavez with over 100,000 AK-47 assault rifles with a factory to build more. Venezuela 's arms build-up -- which reportedly includes Russian-supplied combat helicopters, advanced SU-30 fighter-bombers, and other weapons systems, is unjustified by any realistic external threat.

" America 's continued dependence on imports of foreign oil from countries like Venezuela demonstrates the need to expand drilling for our own domestic sources of energy. Senator Obama opposes this critical step to lessen our dependence on imported oil from dictators like Hugo Chavez -- at a time when Chavez is threatening to cut off oil exports to the U.S.
"I have worked with America 's allies in order to strengthen our relationships in this crucial region, one to which so many American citizens have deep economic, family and cultural ties. And I have worked to isolate and weaken the forces that threaten freedom and prosperity in Latin America .

"In contrast, Senator Obama calls for meeting directly and unconditionally with the region's worst tyrants. Though Senator Obama has never been to Latin America, rather than focus on strengthening America 's ties with friends and allies, he has pledged to sit down with dictators in Venezuela and Cuba in the first year of his presidency. Such a course of action would undermine our democratic allies and embolden anti-American dictators. The United States , and our partners throughout Latin America , cannot afford Senator Obama's brand of unilateralism that rewards Hugo Chavez and his dangerous despotism."

For Immediate Release
September 12, 2008 Contact: Oficina de Prensa
ARLINGTON, VA -- El senador John McCain hizo hoy las siguientes declaraciones sobre Venezuela y la expulsión del embajador Duddy por el gobierno venezolano:

“Estoy sumamente decepcionado por la decisión del gobierno venezolano de expulsar al embajador estadounidense Duddy. Esta escalada en conflictos diplomáticos, precedida por la expulsión del embajador estadounidense de Bolivia, nuevamente nos recuerda que existen peligrosas tendencias en nuestro propio hemisferio.

“El régimen autoritario del Presidente de Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, reprime a su pueblo y está intentando comprar apoyo en Bolivia y en otros países. La amenaza que representa Chávez se extiende más allá de sus fronteras. Se le acusa, con argumentos convincentes, de ayudar a terroristas que procuran desestabilizar a Colombia, un país democrático vecino. Oficiales de alto rango del Ejército y de los servicios de inteligencia de Venezuela han sido acusados de apoyar actividades narcoterroristas. Bombarderos estratégicos rusos han aterrizado recientemente en Venezuela. Se han anunciado ejercicios navales conjuntos entre Rusia y Venezuela. Rusia le ha proporcionado a Chávez más de 100,000 rifles de asalto AK-47, con una planta para fabricar más. La escalada armamentista de Venezuela, que según informes incluye helicópteros de combate proporcionados por los rusos, aviones bombarderos avanzados SU-30 y otros sistemas de armamento, no se justifica con ninguna amenaza externa realista.

“La continua dependencia de Estados Unidos de las importaciones de petróleo extranjero proveniente de países como Venezuela demuestra la necesidad de expandir nuestras propias fuentes internas de energía. El senador Obama se opone a este paso crucial para disminuir nuestra dependencia de petróleo importado de dictadores como Hugo Chávez, en momentos en que Chávez está amenazando con cancelar todas las exportaciones de petróleo a Estados Unidos.

“He trabajado con los aliados de Estados Unidos a fin de fortalecer nuestras relaciones en esta importante región, con la cual tantos ciudadanos estadounidenses tienen vínculos económicos, familiares y culturales. Y he procurado aislar y debilitar las fuerzas que amenazan la libertad y prosperidad en América Latina.

Por el contrario, el senador Obama hace un llamado a reunirse directa e incondicionalmente con uno de los peores tiranos de la región. Como el senador Obama nunca ha visitado América Latina, en lugar de enfocarse en fortalecer los vínculos con los amigos y aliados de Estados Unidos, ha prometido que se sentará con los dictadores de Venezuela y Cuba durante el primer año de su presidencia. Una acción así afectaría a nuestros aliados democráticos y envalentonaría a los dictadores anti-estadounidenses. Estados Unidos y nuestros aliados en toda América Latina, no pueden darse el lujo del unilateralismo propuesto por el senador Obama, que premia a Hugo Chávez y su peligroso despotismo”.

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Treasure Targets Venezuelan - Washington DC

The US government is doing the right thing here. These Venezuelans were helping FARC that is a Colombian terrorist group. Actually where are the OAS - Organization of American States? Why they NEVER say something important, on favor of Justice, Human Rights violations, corruption, narcotraffics, etc. Sad.........
vdebate reporter
Treasury Targets Venezuelan Government Officials Supporting the FARC
Washington, DC
The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of ForeignAssets Control (OFAC) today designated two senior Venezuelan governmentofficials, Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, andone former official, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, for materially assisting thenarcotics trafficking activities of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia(FARC), a narco-terrorist organization.
"Today's designation exposes two senior Venezuelan government officials and one former official who armed, abetted, and funded the FARC, even as itterrorized and kidnapped innocents," said Adam J. Szubin, Director of OFAC."
This is OFAC's sixth action in the last ten months against the FARC.
We will continue to target and isolate those individuals and entities that aid the FARC's deadly narco-terrorist activities in the Americas."
Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios is the Director of Venezuela's MilitaryIntelligence Directorate (DGIM). His assistance to the FARC includes protecting drug shipments from seizure by Venezuelan anti-narcotics authorities and providing weapons to the FARC, allowing them to maintain their strong hold of the coveted Arauca Department.
Arauca, which is located on theColombia/Venezuela border, is known for coca cultivation and cocaine production.
Carvajal Barrios also provides the FARC with official Venezuelan government identification documents that allow FARC members to travel to and from Venezuela with ease.
Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, the Director of Venezuela's Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services or DISIP, is in charge of intelligence and counter intelligence activities for the Venezuelan government.
Rangel Silva has materially assisted the narcotics trafficking activities of the FARC. He has also pushed for greater cooperation between the Venezuelan government and theFARC.
Ramon Emilio Rodriguez Chacin, who was Venezuela's Minister of Interior andJustice until September 8, is the Venezuelan government's main weapons contact for the FARC. The FARC uses its proceeds from narcotics sales to purchase weapons from the Venezuelan government. Rodriguez Chacin has held numerous meetings with senior FARC members, one of which occurred atthe Venezuelan government's Miraflores Palace in late 2007.
Rodriguez Chacin has also assisted the FARC by trying to facilitate a $250 million dollar loan from the Venezuelan government to the FARC in late 2007.
We cannot confirmwhether the loan materialized.
On May 29, 2003, President George W. Bush identified the FARC as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker, or drug kingpin, pursuant to the KingpinAct.
In 2001, the State Department designated the FARC as a SpeciallyDesignated Global Terrorist pursuant to Executive Order 13224, and in 1997 asa Foreign Terrorist Organization.
This OFAC action continues ongoing efforts under the Kingpin Act to apply financial measures against significant foreign narcotics traffickers and their organizations worldwide.
In addition to the 75 drug kingpins that have been designated by the President, 460 businesses and individuals have been designated pursuant to the Kingpin Act since June 2000.
Today's action freezes any assets the designated entities and individuals may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits U.S. persons from conducting financial or commercial transactions involving those assets.
Penalties for violations ofthe Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,075,000 per violation tomore severe criminal penalties.
Criminal penalties for corporate officers mayinclude up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5,000,000. Criminal fines forcorporations may reach $10,000,000.
Other individuals face up to 10 years inprison for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code.For a complete list of the individuals and entities designated today, please visit:
To view previous OFAC actions directed against the FARC, please visit:
Treasury Action against the FARC on July 31, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/.gov/press/ releases/ hp1096.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on May 7, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp966.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on April 22, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp938.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on January 15, 2008
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp762.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on November 1, 2007
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp661.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on September 28, 2006
(link:http://www.treas/. gov/press/ releases/ hp119.htm)
Treasury Action against the FARC on February 19, 2004
(link:http://www.ustreas/. gov/press/ releases/ js1181.htm)

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

They are not a revolutionary group. They are terrorists -- terrorists with a capital T

Marc Gonsalves is completly right FARC is a TERRORIST group.
vdebate reporter

They are not a revolutionary group. They are terrorists -- terrorists with a capital T

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CNN) -- One of three American hostages rescued last week from Colombian rebels said Monday he believes his former captors will retaliate against those still being held.

Marc Gonsalves says FARC, which held him captive, uses revolutionary claims to cover criminal aims.

"Right now, they're being punished because we got rescued," Marc Gonsalves said at San Antonio's Brooke Army Medical Center, where he and fellow ex-hostages Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell have been treated for days.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) had held the three U.S. government contractors since February 2003, after their plane crashed in a remote region of the South American country.
The three were among 15 people -- including Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and 11 Colombian national police and military men -- who were rescued Wednesday by the Colombian military.

On Monday, the Americans spoke publicly for the first time since their rescue. Gonsalves, who called his rescuers "heroes," said he fears for the hostages who remain with FARC.
"They're going to get up early tomorrow morning, they're going to put a heavy backpack on their backs, and they're going to be forced to march with [a] chain around their neck while a guerrilla with an automatic weapon is holding the other end of [the] chain like a dog," Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves blasted the leftist rebel group, calling them "terrorists" who pretended to be fighting for the poor of Colombia so they could engage in crimes such as drug trafficking and extortion.
"They say they want equality; they say they just want to make Colombia a better place," Gonsalves said. "That's all a lie ... to justify their criminal activity."
Don't Miss
He said the rebels deprive their captives of basic human rights, adding that hostages were often chained at their necks and held at gunpoint, and that he once saw the rebels keep a newborn in captivity even though the infant was ill. Watch Gonsalves describe hostages' treatment »
"They are not a revolutionary group. They are terrorists -- terrorists with a capital T," said Gonsalves, a Florida resident and Connecticut native.
He said FARC claims it is not a terrorist group, but he said it should prove that claim by freeing its remaining hostages. FARC is believed to hold more than 700 hostages in camps scattered throughout the jungle.
"Don't tell us that you're not terrorists. Show us that you're not terrorists," he said.
He said the majority of FARC forces were poor children or young adults tricked into thinking they were joining a just, revolutionary cause. Later, he said, some would regret their decision to join, but they knew they would be killed if they tried to leave.
"I've seen how their own guerillas commit suicide

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

The FARC's foreign friends - Mary O'grady

FARC & Chavez did everything possible to make look bad president Uribe, as the computer is showing now......
vdebate reporter

In other words, there is no peace agenda. Only plans for a circus designed to undermine Colombia's democracy. The rest of the region's governments ought to worry about who is next.
Mary O'grady

The FARC's Foreign Friends
by Mary O'grady
Some 11,000 text documents have been retrieved from the computers seized by the Colombian government after a bombing raid on a guerrilla camp in March. That raid killed rebel leader Raúl Reyes.Yet combing through only a portion of the material, which I did recently, is enough to see that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – the FARC – is held together by two common threads.

First is the globalization of the armed struggle.
The FARC's allies and suppliers come from places as far flung as Australia, China, Russia, the Middle East and all parts of Latin America. Some are ideological comrades – both inside governments and operating as illegal cells; others are members of organized crime networks. All are crucial actors in the FARC's bloodthirsty search for power.
The second common thread is the propaganda war.
FARC rebels not only assume that they can manipulate international opinion by claiming a "humanitarian" agenda. They count on it. All this is facilitated by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The Colombian military has been running up the score against the FARC of late and rebel operations are close to falling apart, as Journal reporter José de Cordoba wrote last week. But the documents show that aid from Mr. Chávez is prolonging the war by keeping FARC hopes alive.
The Venezuelan president has been creative in thinking about how he can help the rebels. The documents show that he has offered $250 million to $300 million but that's not all. In a February memo to the FARC high command, two rebel leaders who had recently met with Mr. Chávez describe proposed money-making schemes. "He offered us the possibility of a business in which we would receive a quota of oil to sell outside the country, which would leave us with a juicy profit."
There was also an offer of Venezuelan state contracts. In January 2007, the rebels penned a memo explaining that a Venezuelan general told them that arms shipments from abroad could be brought in through the Venezuelan port of Maracaibo.
By September, the shipments were being lined up. "Yesterday I received two Australian arms suppliers," one rebel wrote to the high command, "thanks to a contact made through Ramiro [a Salvadoran.]" The Aussies "offer very good prices on all we need."
The list includes 50-caliber machine guns, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and missiles. "All of these materials are made in Russia and China," he wrote, and the shipment would take a month or so "to arrive in Venezuela."
Just in case all this military hardware doesn't maim and murder enough civilians to produce a surrender by the Colombian government, Mr. Chávez and the FARC also have been collaborating on Plan B: an effort to acquire legitimacy in the eyes of the international community by branding Colombian President Álvaro Uribe as heartless and unreasonable.
That was supposed to be a slam dunk after Mr. Chávez last year won the role of "mediator" in the effort to free some FARC hostages, including the French-Colombian Ingrid Betancourt. But a series of PR faux-pas, culminating in a fruitless trip to see French President Nicolas Sarkozy, destroyed any credibility he may briefly have enjoyed as a peacemaker.
Shortly thereafter, rebel leaders wrote a memo outlining how they planned to position themselves as humanitarians ready to swap hostages for rebel prisoners "in contrast to the stubborn intransigence of Mr. Uribe."
Among their demands would be exclusion from the international terrorist list and access to diplomatic missions. "If [Mr. Uribe] rejects it, as he surely will," they wrote, "we lose nothing and instead he will remain isolated and under international pressure." That plan, too, went nowhere.
On Feb. 8 of this year, the rebels wrote that Mr. Chávez had a new idea: to create an international group – consisting of Cuba, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil, Mexico and Nicaragua – similar to the Contadora Group. Contadora, which was formed in the 1980s allegedly to find a peaceful solution to the Central American wars, in fact provided political cover to the region's Marxists.
According to the rebels, Mr. Chávez said that if Mr. Uribe wants to improve bilateral relations, he would have to accept it and "asks that we bring Ingrid to the inaugural." In preparation for the swap, the group would set up a "humanitarian camp" with "the presence of the press, international delegates and the FARC." In other words, there is no peace agenda.
Only plans for a circus designed to undermine Colombia's democracy. The rest of the region's governments ought to worry about who is next.
Source/Fuente: http://www.wsj.com/

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Adventures in the Ransom Trade

Interesting story of a kidnapping in Colombia, that inspire the Movie Proof of Life with
Meg Ryan, Russell Crowe & David Morse.

Adventures in the Ransom Trade
By William Prochnau


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Sunday, June 8, 2008

Colombian Army Adaptation to FARC Insurgency

This report is old but interesting to read, if you want understand more abour FARC
vdebate reporter.

Colombian Army adaptation to FARC Insurgency
Thomas Marks
January 2002

Comments pertaining to this report are invited and should be
forwarded to: Director, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War
College, 122 Forbes Ave., Carlisle, PA 17013-5244. Copies of this report
may be obtained from the Publications Office by calling commercial
(717) 245-4133, FAX (717) 245-3820, or via the Internet at


The forgotten American hostages in Colombia

GREAT NEWS NOW THEY ARE FREE!!!!!!!!!!!! We are so happy !!!!!!!!!!!!! They started living again.
Interesting information, related to the American Hostages hold in Colombia. We will keep you posted in this issue.
vdebate reporter

Their website:


U.S. Hostages Talk About Life In Captivity
October 2003 - 60 minutes - CBS

Contractors Captured In Colombia Tell Dan Rather Their Story
October 2003 - 60 minutes - CBS

Colombia: Private U.S. Operatives on Risky Missions
by Juan Forero, New York Times
February 14th, 2004

Statement on American Hostages in Colombia
Chris Dodd - US Senator -February 2006

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A brief history of Colombia Civil Conflict

I am copying all these articles related with the American hostages by FARC in Colombia.
vdebate reporter
Continuing a series of posts begun here. A very brief history of the Colombian civil conflict, South American narco-trafficking, the link between the two, and the U.S. role:
Since 1964, ideologically communist insurgents have fought a low to mid intensity asymmetrical campaign against the Colombian government. The largest insurgent groups are the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC) and the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army, ELN). A third major insurgent group, the Movimiento 19 de Abril (19th of April Movement, M-19) demobilized into a political party in the early 90’s. In the mid 90’s, numerous semi-populist and eventually illegal anti-insurgent paramilitary groups coalesced under the loose banner of the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (United Self-defense Forces of Colombia, AUC).
The overwhelming majority of the world’s cocaine demand, including approximately 350 Metric tons per year for the U.S., is supplied by the Andean Ridge region of South America; primarily Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia. This concentration of cocaine production is largely a function of the agricultural needs of the coca plant combined with the extraordinary remoteness of the jungle covered mountain regions of these three countries. While coca production has shifted wildly from one country to another, the control of the final product has remained consistently in the hands of Colombians. Large, extremely powerful, politically connected, and extraordinarily violent Colombian cocaine syndicates formed during the 1970’s, including the well known Medellín and Cali cartels. During the height of his power, Medellín cartel head Pablo Escobar was elected to congress and was assessed to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the world. Part of the Cartels’ success came from a willingness to use terror tactics: the cartels assassinated presidential candidates, judges, elected officials, and hundreds of police. Eventually the cocaine cartels were decapitated and fragmented. While not entirely gone, they are no longer freely operating massive conglomerates in full control of the cocaine industry.
Throughout the history of Colombian cocaine production, the FARC and other insurgent groups have played a roll. The coca is grown and processed in remote areas frequently dominated by the insurgents. Although the relationship between the insurgents and the cartels was often strained and occasionally violent, the insurgents and the cartels developed a working relationship that involved an informal “taxation” of the coca in exchange for “protection,” both real and symbolic, of the fields, processing facilities, and convoys. With the drying up of Soviet funding for world wide communist governments and proxy insurgents, the FARC and others became dependent upon coca revenue, along with other fund raising methods, such as kidnapping for ransom. With the decapitation and reduction in power of the cartels in the 1990s, the FARC and others, including the paramilitary AUC, stepped in to fill an ever larger direct role in cocaine production, processing, and distribution. Today, the FARC is inextricably linked to cocaine production.
The United States has been a long term supporter of the Colombian government’s struggle against the communist insurgents. This support has ranged from direct combat assistance in the 1960s to largely financial, legal and advisory assistance in the 1990s. During that period, the U.S. walked a fine congressionally controlled line between direct support for counter narcotics and the taboo of involvement in foreign counter insurgency. This decade, largely as a result of expanded counter-terrorism policies approved in the wake of 9/11, U.S. policy shifted to allow military assistance, though not direct operational activity, to Colombia’s security forces fighting the various insurgent and paramilitary groups. The U.S. government recognizes the direct FARC and AUC link with drug trafficking.
It is probably appropriate to mention that no party in this long struggle is pure. While the insurgent forces have waged a cocaine, kidnapping, and extortion funded illegal civil war that has killed thousands, the government forces have a long history of corruption, collusion with the illegal paramilitaries, and human rights abuses. International pressure and the tying of U.S. assistance to a clean up in these areas has resulted in significant improvement. The AUC collusion has been removed as an institutional tie, though accusations of operational level ties remain. Human Rights grievances against national police and the Colombian military have dropped precipitously; though internationally watch dog groups still find much to fault in the Colombian forces. This series of posts is not intended to resolve those disputes, or even weigh in on who is right. These posts are about the hostages.
Which brings us to Marc, Keith, & Tom. Contracted by the US Department of Defense, they were conducting aerial reconnaissance support when their Cessna’s engine died, forcing them to crash land in the vicinity of a FARC patrol. We approach the fifth anniversary of their captivity. The FARC have suffered significant losses during the past 5 years, their numbers dropping, recruitment suffering, and influence waning. But they remain the largest insurgent force in the hemisphere, well armed, solidly funded, experienced, and lead by a cadre committed to continuing the conflict.
Prospects for a peaceful release are dim. While kidnapping for ransom is a common funding method for the insurgents, high profile and political prisoners tend to stay captive for years, and are sometimes executed. The FARC hold hundreds of Colombian national hostages, including Ingrid Betancourt, a presidential candidate captured in 2002, numerous elected officials, civil employees and police officers. The FARC have used their high profile captives as bargaining chips, putting forth various hostage exchange scenarios that would swap some FARC-held prisoners for hundreds of captured FARC members being held in Colombian prisons. On rare occasions, the FARC will make a good will gesture, as they did last week with the release of two long term hostages; Betancourt’s aid and a former Congresswoman, into the care of their perceived ideological sympathizer, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
As I said in the first post:Here is what I propose: In one month, on February 13th, on the fifth anniversary of their imprisonment, I would like to see every blogger and journalist with which we have the slightest influence post something about Marc, Keith, & Tom. Anything. Decry the drug war. Rail against the communist-based, narco-trafficking insurgents. Rage against Western imperialism in Latin America for all I care. Just remember Marc, Keith, & Tom. Express concern for their welfare, and hope for their freedom. Demonstrate to their families that they are not forgotten. Help spread the word. If you have a blog, mark the date, prepare a post. If you don’t, send an email to your favorite blog. I don’t care if anyone link’s to this post, I really don’t. Just get something posted. Let’s spread this far and wide. This is something that can cross nearly all ideological boundaries. I don’t know what good this can do, but I would like to think that it might elevate the issue in the minds of influential parties. Hostages have been released for lesser public relations reasons.

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American Hostage, prisoners of the FARC

I found this article in another blog.
The hostages are:
  • Marc Gonsalvez
  • Keith Stansell
  • Thomas Howes
American Hostage Crisis, Day 1,749: Prisoners of the FARC
On February 13th, 2003 four Americans under contract with the U.S. government and a Colombian citizen onboard a Cessna 208 crashed in the Colombian jungle. They survived. Unfortunately, they were deep within territory controlled and patrolled by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, widely referred to as the FARC, the largest armed insurgent force in the Western hemisphere. The revolutionaries soon surrounded the crash site. They executed pilot Tom Janis and Colombian Luis Alcides Cruz on the spot. They took the three other Americans, Marc Gonsalves , Keith Stansell, and Thomas Howes, prisoner. And so they remain to this day. Five years held hostage in the Colombian jungle.
I do not support the U.S. government’s “War on Drugs.” I am highly critical of the U.S government’s foreign policy history in Latin America. But I can find only heartbreak and tragedy in the plight of Marc, Keith, & Tom. They were, quite simply, doing their jobs as employees of California Microwave Systems, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman. They were flying in support of U.S. and Colombian law enforcement agents combating narco-trafficking in Colombia. To a large extent, these three American citizens have been forgotten by their nation, ignored by their media, and flushed from the consciousness of their fellow citizens. They are perhaps caught in the unfortunate position of being contractors; mercenaries in the eyes of many. Ineligible for the “outrage from innocence” that uninvolved citizens would gain, deprived of the patriotic tendency to protect “our boys” in uniform. But they are still citizens, and regardless of your feelings on the drug war and our support for the government of Colombia’s 40 year counter insurgency war, we can not deprive our fellow citizens of our empathy. They were doing their job, aiding U.S. and Colombian law enforcement officials, they crashed, and now five years of their lives have been spent in captivity.
Here is what I propose: In one month, on February 13th, on the fifth anniversary of their imprisonment, I would like to see every blogger and journalist with which we have the slightest influence post something about Marc, Keith, & Tom. Anything. Decry the drug war. Rail against the communist-based, narco-trafficking insurgents. Rage against Western imperialism in Latin America for all I care. Just remember Marc, Keith, & Tom. Express concern for their welfare, and hope for their freedom. Demonstrate to their families that they are not forgotten. Help spread the word. If you have a blog, mark the date, prepare a post. If you don’t, send an email to your favorite blog. I don’t care if anyone link’s to this post, I really don’t. Just get something posted. Let’s spread this far and wide. This is something that can cross nearly all ideological boundaries. I don’t know what good this can do, but I would like to think that it might elevate the issue in the minds of influential parties. Hostages have been released for lesser public relations reasons.
In the coming weeks, I intend to post more about their captivity, the FARC, the hundreds of other Colombian hostages, and Colombia’s 40+ year civil insurgency. I will, without doubt, include much subjective vitriol against USG policy related to the drug war, but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is Marc, Keith, & Tom.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why the FARC's defeat looks to be only a matter of time

LAS FARC are a terrorist group, they are drug dealers and kidnappers.
The Economist 29/05/2008
Peace for Colombia?
May 29th 2008 BOGOTá
From The Economist print edition
Why the FARC's defeat looks to be only a matter of time
PRESIDENTS have come and gone over the past four decades in Colombia but one man remained constant. Pedro Antonio Marín, better known by the noms de guerre of Manuel Marulanda or “Tirofijo” (“Sureshot”), led his FARC guerrillas through army bombardments, bogus cease fires and failed peace talks, never giving up his quixotic and destructive campaign to turn a large South American democracy into a clone of the long-vanished Soviet Union.
Mr Marulanda's death was always going to be of moment for Colombia. In the event, it has almost certainly coincided with the FARC’s demise as a serious military threat to the state.
A FARC commander announced that Mr Marulanda died on March 26th of a heart attack. Army chiefs believe that he might have expired as a result of their bombardments. In the same month, two other members of the FARC’s seven-man secretariat were killed, Raúl Reyes by a bombing raid on his camp across the border in Ecuador and Iván Ríos by his own bodyguard.
Mr Marulanda will be replaced by Alfonso Cano (real name: Guillermo León Sáenz), the FARC's chief ideologue. But there are reasons to suppose that the guerrillas will never recover from their March setback
Mr Marulanda was the last link to the FARC’s origins as a peasant self-defence force against landowners, an offshoot of a rural civil war in the 1940s and 1950s between Liberals and Conservatives. A man of peasant cunning and stubbornness, he was said never to have visited any city larger than Neiva, of some 315,000 people. Later recruits were middle-class Marxist students, such as Mr Cano.
The FARC survived the end of the cold war, but at the cost of its ideological purity, by turning to drug-trafficking and kidnapping. Mr Marulanda was by the mid-1990s leading a force of 19,000 operating in large units, overwhelming army garrisons and threatening Bogotá, the capital. That prompted the government to open peace talks, abandoned after three years in which the FARC carried on kidnapping, bombing and recruiting.
Colombians turned in despair to Álvaro Uribe, their tough president since 2002. He has expanded the security forces by a third, to 270,000, including a core of 80,000 professional soldiers, some of them in mobile brigades and special forces. They are backed by a large helicopter fleet, Brazilian-made Super Tucano tactical bombers and American advice, especially in intercepting communications.
This build-up transformed the war, driving the FARC away from the towns. Recent changes of government strategy are now bearing fruit. These involve encouraging guerrilla desertions and targeting the leadership. The FARC are now losing more deserters than they are gaining new recruits, according to General Freddy Padilla de León, the armed-forces’ commander. “They are reduced militarily, isolated politically, have a reduced social base and we are cutting their finance [by acting against their drug business]. It’s impossible for them to return to the cities,” he says.
What has worried Colombian officials most has been signs that Venezuela has been helping the FARC. But Venezuela’s government is likely to be more circumspect after evidence of ties emerged from documents on Reyes’s computers.
So what future do the guerrillas have? Mr Cano is sometimes portrayed as a moderate, in contrast to Jorge Briceño (aka “Mono Jojoy”), the FARC’s military commander. But in a two-hour interview with The Economist in 2001, Mr Cano showed himself to be a rigid Marxist, unprepared to accept democracy. “Our struggle is to do away with the state as now it exists in Colombia,” he said. The FARC wanted power and would not demobilise in return for “houses, cars and scholarships” or a few seats in Congress.
Mr Cano’s first task will be to prevent the FARC from fragmenting into its constituent “fronts”. Constant army pressure means the fronts now find it hard to communicate with each other. Some, including Mr Cano’s in the centre-south, are on the run; others, such as that in Nariño, in the south-west, are still awash with drug money. Yet others rely on havens across the borders in Venezuela and Ecuador.
By maintaining the pressure, the government hopes to force the FARC into negotiations. Relations of hostages kidnapped by the guerrillas hope that the death of the obstinate Mr Marulanda will speed their release. Neither may happen soon. “Marulanda’s death is not the death of the FARC,” says Camilo Gómez, who negotiated for the government during the peace talks.
Since perhaps 9,000 guerrillas are still under arms, that is clearly true. But defeat looks only a matter of time.

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela has been caught

The New York Times, 25 de mayo de 2008
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela has been caught.
Despite his protestations of innocence, Interpol has corroborated the authenticity of thousands of computer files captured during a Colombian Army raid on a FARC rebel camp in Venezuela. Only a small share of this trove has been released, but it leaves little doubt that Venezuela has been aiding the guerrillas’ effort to overthrow Colombia’s democratically elected government. The Colombian government released documents from the computers that suggest Venezuelan intelligence officials tried to secure weapons for the FARC and that Mr. Chávez’s government offered the rebels oil and a $250 million loan. Information in the files has already led to the seizure of FARC funds in Costa Rica.
Colombia can now take the issue to the Organization of American States, the United Nations Security Council or the International Court of Justice. But it might need further corroborating evidence, as Interpol only certified that the Colombian government did not tamper with the files but said nothing about the veracity of their content. Mr. Chávez has a more important choice to make: he can sink once and for all into the role of regional pariah, to be contained or isolated in the name of regional stability, or he can commit to becoming a responsible neighbor. All of his neighbors, and all Venezuelans, should urge him to choose the latter course.
Responsibility means that Mr. Chávez must halt all aid to the FARC — which long ago chose drug trafficking over political liberation — and use his influence to get the rebels to lay down their arms and join the demobilization process that is under way for Colombia’s right-wing paramilitary groups.
Mr. Chávez’s posturing as a populist liberator is wearing thin at home, where voters defeated his proposal to overhaul the Constitution so he could stay in power indefinitely. It is also wearing thin abroad, where Mr. Chávez has used Venezuela’s oil riches to meddle in Argentina, Bolivia and Nicaragua, among others. Latin America’s leaders need to realize that his actions threaten the stability of the entire region and that cheap oil does not lessen that threat. They need to remind Mr. Chávez of the commitment to nonintervention and democratic rule in the Organization of American States charter. And they need to make clear that he has only two possible moves from here: he can become a responsible neighbor or be ostracized in the hemisphere.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Chavez aided Colombia Rebels, Captured Computer Files Show

Chavez Aided Colombia Rebels, Captured Computer Files Show
(Copyright (c) 2008, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
BOGOTA, Colombia -- A cache of controversial computer files closely tying Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez to communist rebels seeking to topple Colombia's government appear to be authentic, U.S. intelligence officials say.
The trove -- found on a dead guerrilla leader's laptops during a military raid in March -- is likely to ratchet up pressure for the U.S. to impose sanctions on one of its most important oil suppliers.
The files that have been made public so far have largely confirmed Mr. Chavez's well-known sympathy for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. But a review by The Wall Street Journal of more than 100 new files from the computers suggests that Venezuela has broader and deeper ties to the FARC than previously known.
These documents indicate Venezuela appears to be making concrete offers to help arm the rebels, possibly with rocket-propelled grenades and ground-to-air missiles. The files suggest that Venezuela offered the FARC the use of one of its ports to receive arms shipments, and that Venezuela raised the prospect of drawing up a joint security plan with the FARC and sought basic training in guerrilla-warfare techniques.
"There is complete agreement in the intelligence community that these documents are what they purport to be," a senior U.S. official said. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has been sharing its assessments with the White House, this official said.
Washington's stance is likely to hurt Venezuela's already deeply strained relationship with the U.S., its biggest trade partner. It could also add pressure for the U.S. to declare Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism, alongside Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria, and impose sanctions.
Mr. Chavez has repeatedly said the files were faked by Colombia. "We don't recognize the validity of any of these documents," Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador to the U.S., said in a Wednesday interview. "They are false, and an attempt to discredit the Venezuelan government."
Interpol, the international police organization, has yet to give its view on the files' legitimacy. Colombia asked Interpol to perform an independent forensic analysis, and next week, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble is scheduled to travel to Colombia to present the findings.
Mr. Noble declined to comment on Interpol's conclusions. He said Interpol hasn't yet briefed foreign governments on its findings. "Anyone who has told you that Interpol has informed him about our findings has given you false information," he said.
The computer files hint at the depth of Mr. Chavez's antipathy towards the U.S., which he often describes as an "empire" oppressing Latin America. According to one document, Venezuela's interior minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, last November asked the FARC to train Venezuela's military in nuts-and-bolts guerrilla tactics -- including "operational tactics, explosives, . . . jungle camps, ambushes, logistics, mobility" -- so that soldiers would be prepared to fight a guerrilla war if the U.S. were to invade Venezuela.
The documents are among more than 10,000 files that Colombian intelligence services say came from three computers belonging to Raul Reyes, the FARC's former second-in-command. Mr. Reyes was killed in March when Colombia's military staged a contentious cross-border raid into Ecuador, where he was camped.
The FARC itself has suggested the files are fake. A FARC statement published on the Web site of Venezuela's Information Ministry ridiculed Colombia's claims about the computer files, saying computers couldn't have survived the Colombian army attack "even if they had been bullet-proof."
A senior staffer in the U.S. Senate, who had been briefed on the contents of the files, cautioned that Mr. Chavez is known for his bombast, and that while tantalizing, the information in the files would need careful corroboration before action is taken against Venezuela. "We need to see proof of what is mentioned in the reports," the staffer said.
There have been some recent indications that the computers contain accurate information. Police in Costa Rica staged a successful raid on a home belonging to alleged FARC sympathizers, and recovered $480,000 in cash, guided by information from the documents suggesting the money would be located there.
In addition, Ecuador's interior minister confirmed that he had met with Mr. Reyes, after an email describing the previously secret meeting was found on the laptops and made public by Colombia.
The FARC, which has been fighting for control of Colombia for nearly a half-century, funds itself mostly through drug trafficking and kidnapping for ransom. The U.S. considers it to be one of the world's main cocaine suppliers.
The FARC is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S., Canada, Colombia and the European Union. For the U.S., any group that deliberately attacks civilians for political reasons merits such a designation. With troop strength estimated at around 9,000 fighters, that would make the FARC Latin America's oldest and largest such group.
However, Colombia's neighbors, including Venezuela, Ecuador and Brazil, don't consider the FARC to be a terrorist organization. Indeed, Mr. Chavez has hailed the group as brother revolutionaries. He has thrown Venezuela's weight behind an effort to remove the FARC from terrorist lists and instead grant the group diplomatic recognition as a "belligerent army."
According to the senior U.S. intelligence official, the Colombian government delivered "thousands" of the controversial documents to Washington in March. Since then, American technical experts have studied them for signs of forgery and to assess whether they correspond to the methods the FARC typically uses to communicate.
"There are no indications whatsoever that they've been fabricated by the Colombians," the official said.
The official said that the most troubling information in the files suggested the FARC's willingness to purchase virtually any type of weapon from any source. The official said Mr. Chavez's government has increasingly been willing to help the FARC reach international buyers. The official cited the FARC's particular desire to acquire surface-to-air missiles, although he said there weren't any signs of the guerrilla movement succeeding.
During a speech Wednesday on Latin American relations, President Bush brought up the FARC situation. "Colombia faces a hostile and anti-American neighbor in Venezuela, where the regime has forged an alliance with Cuba, collaborated with FARC terrorists, and provided sanctuary to FARC units."
According to a study last week from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sanctions against Venezuela could backfire if done poorly. The U.S. would need to rally significant regional support or risk that sanctions become "counterproductive" by stirring nationalist or anti-U.S. sentiments.
Venezuela has mounted a vigorous diplomatic offensive to block any move by the U.S. to declare the nation a terrorism sponsor. Such a declaration would prompt U.S. economic sanctions, disrupt $50 billion in annual bilateral trade and jolt the already jittery global oil market, since Venezuela is a major oil producer.
In a speech last month in New York, Mr. Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador, warned the U.S. would pay a heavy economic price if it made any such move. "There will be very grave economic consequences," Mr. Alvarez said, adding that some 230,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs depend on U.S. exports to Venezuela, which in turn sends some 1.58 million barrels of oil daily to the U.S.
The documents suggest Mr. Chavez is personally involved in helping the guerrillas. In a September 2007 message to the FARC's ruling body, a commander wrote: "Chavez is studying our documents and has said that just like Fidel [Castro] has decided to delegate his other responsibilities to concentrate on the Venezuelan situation, he [Chavez] is ready to do the same to dedicate more time to Colombia."
Colombia has long accused Venezuela of letting the FARC operate on its side of the border, allegations the Venezuelans have denied. But according to one 2005 email, from Jorge Briceno (known as Mono Jojoy, a top FARC military commander), the rebels at that time had some 370 guerrillas and urban sympathizers operating inside Venezuela.
One email, apparently sent by a FARC commander known as "Timochenko" to the guerrillas' ruling body in March 2007, describes meetings with Venezuelan naval-intelligence officers who offer the FARC assistance in getting "rockets." The Venezuelans also offer to help a FARC guerrilla travel to the Middle East to learn how to use the rockets.
Colombian military analysts believe the reference is to shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, a weapon that the guerrillas desperately need if they hope to blunt Colombia's recent gains. "The FARC realizes that its military problem is air power," says Gen. Oscar Naranjo, who heads the country's national police.
In another email dated early 2007, FARC commander Ivan Marquez describes meetings with the Venezuelan military's intelligence chief, Gen. Hugo Carvajal, and another Venezuelan officer to talk about "finances, arms and border policy." Mr. Marquez relates that the Venezuelans will provide the guerrillas some 20 "very powerful bazookas," which Colombian military officials believe is a reference to rocket-propelled grenade launchers.
An officer reached at Gen. Carvajal's office said the general was the only person authorized to comment and he couldn't be reached because he was traveling.
At the meeting with Gen. Carvajal, another Venezuelan general is described as offering the port of Maracaibo to facilitate arms shipments to the guerrillas. The general suggests piggybacking on shipments from Russia -- from which Venezuela itself is buying everything from Kalashnikovs to jet fighters -- to "include some containers destined to the FARC" with various arms for the guerrillas' own use.
A spokesman at the Russian embassy in Washington declined to comment.
The proposals to obtain weaponry are part of a broad program of economic and political support for the FARC from Mr. Chavez's government, some of which was detailed in emails that were made public in the days just after the cross-border military raid that yielded the computer files.
Another email describes a November meeting between two FARC commanders and Mr. Chavez. The commanders, Ricardo Granda and Ivan Marquez, report back in the email that Mr. Chavez gave orders to create "rest areas" and hospital zones for the guerrillas to use on the Venezuelan side of the border.
Many documents talk about how to fit generous offers of Venezuelan aid to the FARC's long-term "strategic plan" of taking power in Colombia. In one document dated January 2007, one top FARC commander speaks of a "loan" for $250 million to buy arms which the FARC will pay back once it has reached power. "Don't think of it as a loan, think of it as solidarity," says Mr. Rodriguez Chacin, the interior minister, in another document.
Mr. Rodriguez Chacin's press office didn't respond to a request for comment. Earlier this week, he dismissed Colombian newspaper reports that Interpol had confirmed that the computer documents were authentic, according to an Interior Ministry press release. "Imagine somebody taking [evidence] home and manipulating it as he wants, and afterwards presenting it," he said. "What court in the world will accept that evidence?"
While the documents indicate that the FARC is appreciative of Venezuela's efforts, privately the guerrillas occasionally make fun of the Venezuelans' work habits. "It hasn't been easy for us to adapt to the way of being of the Venezuelans," complains Mr. Reyes in one document. "It doesn't seem as if they are conscious of their boring lack of formality." Mr. Chavez "always leaves things until the last moment."

David Gauthier-Villars in Paris and David Crawford in Berlin contributed to this article.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Files Released by Colombia Point to Venezuelan Bid to Arm Rebels

New York Times
March 30, 2008
Files Released by Colombia Point to Venezuelan Bid to Arm Rebels

BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Files provided by Colombian officials from computers they say were captured in a cross-border raid in Ecuador this month appear to tie Venezuela’s government to efforts to secure arms for Colombia’s largest insurgency.

Officials taking part in Colombia’s investigation of the computers provided The New York Times with copies of more than 20 files, some of which also showed contributions from the rebels to the 2006 campaign of Ecuador’s leftist president, Rafael Correa.

If verified, the files would offer rare insight into the cloak-and-dagger nature of Latin America’s longest-running guerrilla conflict, including what appeared to be the killing of a Colombian government spy with microchips implanted in her body, a crime apparently carried out by the rebels in their jungle redoubt.

The files would also potentially link the governments of Venezuela and Ecuador to the leftist guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the United States says is a terrorist group and has fought to overthrow Colombia’s government for four decades.

Though it was impossible to authenticate the files independently, the Colombian officials said their government had invited Interpol to verify the files. The officials did not want to be identified while any Interpol inquiry was under way.

Both the United States and Colombia, Washington’s staunchest ally in the region, have a strong interest in undercutting President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who has sought to counter United States influence by forming his own leftist bloc in the region. But the Colombian officials who provided the computer files adamantly vouched for them.

The files contained touches that suggested authenticity: they were filled with revolutionary jargon, passages in numerical code, missives about American policy in Latin America and even brief personal reflections like one by a senior rebel commander on the joy of becoming a grandfather.

Other senior Colombian officials said the files made public so far only scratched the surface of the captured archives, risking new friction with Venezuela and Ecuador, both of whom have dismissed the files as fakes.

Vice President Francisco Santos said Colombia’s stability was at risk if explicit support from its neighbors for the FARC, the country’s largest armed insurgency, was proved true. “The idea that using weapons to topple a democratic government has not been censured,” Mr. Santos said in an interview, “is not only stupid — it is frankly frightening.”

Colombia’s relations with its two Andean neighbors veered suddenly toward armed conflict after Colombian forces raided a FARC camp inside Ecuador on March 1, killing 26 people, including a top FARC commander, and capturing the computers, according to the Colombians.

Though tensions ebbed after a summit meeting of Latin American nations in the Dominican Republic this month, the matter of the computer files has threatened to reignite the diplomatic crisis caused by the raid.

Shortly after the crisis erupted, Colombian officials began releasing a small portion of the computer files, some of which they said showed efforts by Mr. Chavez’s government to provide financial support for the FARC.

Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said in an interview that officials had obtained more than 16,000 files from three computers belonging to Luis Édgar Devia Silva, a commander known by his nom de guerre, Raúl Reyes, who was killed in the raid. Two other hard drives were also captured, he said.

“Everything has been accessed and everything is being validated by Interpol,” Mr. Santos said, adding that he expected the work on the validation to be completed by the end of April. “It is a great deal of information that is extremely valuable and important.”

Mr. Santos, who said the computers survived the raid because they were in metal casing, strongly defended Colombia’s military foray into Ecuador, which drew condemnation in other parts of Latin America as a violation of Ecuador’s sovereignty.

“Personally I do not regret a thing, absolutely nothing, but I am a minister of a government that has agreed this type of action would not be repeated,” he said. “Of course, this depends on our neighbors collaborating on the fight against terrorism.”

For his part, Mr. Chávez, in a meeting with foreign journalists last week in Caracas, lashed out at Colombia’s government and mocked the files.

“The main weapon they have now is the computer, the supposed computer of Raúl Reyes,” Mr. Chávez said. “This computer is like à la carte service, giving you whatever you want. You want steak? Or fried fish? How would you like it prepared? You’ll get it however the empire decides.”

The correspondence also pointed to warm relations between Venezuela’s government and the FARC.

One letter, dated Jan. 25, 2007, by Iván Márquez, a member of the FARC’s seven-member secretariat, discussed a meeting with a Venezuelan official called Carvajal. “Carvajal,” Mr. Márquez wrote, “left with the pledge of bringing an arms dealer from Panama.”

Officials here said they believed that the official in question was Gen. Hugo Carvajal, the director of military intelligence in Venezuela, a confidant of Mr. Chávez and perhaps Venezuela’s most powerful intelligence official.

In other correspondence from September 2004 after the killing by the FARC of six Venezuelan soldiers and one Venezuelan engineer on Venezuelan soil that month, General Carvajal’s longstanding ties to the guerrillas also come into focus. In those letters, the guerrillas describe talks with General Carvajal, Mr. Chávez’s emissary to deal with the issue.

“Today I met with General Hugo Carvajal,” a FARC commander wrote in on letter dated Sept. 23, 2004. “He said he guarded the secret hope that what happened in Apure,” the rebel wrote in reference to the Venezuelan border state where the killings took place, “was the work of a force different from our own.”

Officials in General Carvajal’s office at the General Directorate of Military Intelligence in Caracas did not respond to requests for comment on the letters. Mr. Chávez responded to a report earlier this year in Colombia claiming that General Carvajal provided logistical assistance to the FARC by calling it an “attack on the revolution” he has led in Venezuela.

Another file recovered from Mr. Devia’s computers, dated a week earlier on Jan. 18, 2007, described efforts by the FARC’s secretariat to secure Mr. Chávez’s assistance for buying arms and obtaining a $250 million loan, “to be paid when we take power.”

The FARC, a Marxist-inspired insurgency that has persisted for four decades, finances itself largely through cocaine trafficking and kidnappings for ransom. But other files from the computers suggested that Colombia’s counterinsurgency effort, financed in large part by $600 million a year in aid from Washington, was making those activities less lucrative for the FARC, forcing it to consider options like selling Venezuelan gasoline at a profit in Colombia.

The release of the files comes at a delicate time when some lawmakers in Washington are pressing for Venezuela to be included on a list of countries that are state sponsors of terrorism. But with Venezuela remaining a leading supplier of oil to the United States, such a move is considered unlikely because of the limits on trade it would entail.

Moreover, interpretations of the files from Mr. Devia’s computers have already led to some mistakes.

For instance, El Tiempo, Colombia’s leading daily newspaper, issued an apology this month to Gustavo Larrea, Ecuador’s security minister, after publishing a photograph obtained from the computers in which the newspaper claimed Mr. Larrea was shown meeting with Mr. Devia at a FARC camp. In fact, the photograph was of Patricio Etchegaray, an official with the Communist Party in Argentina.

Still, the files from Mr. Devia’s computers are expected to haunt relations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela for some time.

For instance, one piece of correspondence dated Nov. 21, 2006, and circulated among the FARC’s secretariat, describes a $100,000 donation to the campaign of Mr. Correa, Ecuador’s president.

Of that amount, $50,000 came from the FARC’s “Eastern bloc,” a militarily strong faction that operates in eastern Colombia, and $20,000 from the group’s “Southern bloc,” according to the document.

President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia referred this month to files from Mr. Devia’s computers showing financing of Mr. Correa’s campaign by the FARC, but he stopped short of releasing them after tensions eased at the summit meeting in the Dominican Republic.

“Any archive is not valid until it is verified,” said Pedro Artieda, a spokesman at the Ecuadorean Foreign Ministry, when asked for comment. “Therefore, the government cannot comment on something that is not confirmed.” Mr. Correa had previously disputed the campaign-finance claims based on the computers files, saying they lacked “technical and legal” validity.

Other files offer insight into the methods employed both by the FARC and Colombia’s government in their four-decade war. In one letter by Mr. Devia dated Jan. 5, 2007, to Manuel Marulanda, the most senior member of the FARC’s secretariat, he described a woman in their ranks who was discovered to be a government spy.

“The new thing here,” Mr. Devia wrote, “was that she had two microchips, one under her breast and the other beneath her jaw.”

Mr. Devia went on to describe the reaction to this discovery, explaining in the rebels’ slang that she was given “a course.”

“Yesterday they threw her into the hole after proving what she was,” he wrote, “and giving her the counsel of war.”

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Sarkozy says Betancourt's death would be "murder" by rebels

Sarkozy says Betancourt's death would be "murder" by rebels
06.03.08 21:51
dpa )- If former Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt were to die in captivity, it would be "murder" by the leftist Colombian rebels who kidnapped her in February 2002, French President Nicolas Sarkozy told Colombian television.
In an interview broadcast by RCN on Thursday, Sarkozy addressed Manuel Marulanda Velez, the top leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), asking him to free Betancourt and the more than other hostages held by the rebel group.
According to Sarkozy, such a move would change the views of those who condemn FARC's activities and perhaps allow the group to be removed from lists of terrorists.
Bentancourt is the most high profile of the more than 700 hostages held by FARC and holds both French and Colombian citizenship. She has been reported to be ill.
"I am telling FARC boss, Manuel Marulanda, that (FARC) have on their shoulders the weight of responsibility for the life or death of a woman and that he has to evaluate perfectly the decision he is going to make. Because this woman is in life-threatening danger and could die in the coming days," he said.
"If he lets her die, it will mean he is responsible for a murder. If he releases her, it will mean he has made a humanitarian gesture, and that humanitarian gesture will necessarily provoke, trigger something else," Sarkozy said.
He recalled that Betancourt is a French-Colombian citizen and stressed that "the people of France are mobilized around their compatriot."
"She has lived in the jungle for six years. Her family, her children are asking for her return. She is currently in life- threatening danger. It is a national cause for France, which is not to say that it is not also necessary to release all the hostages unfairly kidnapped," Sarkozy noted.
"Perhaps thanks to the action of France six civilian hostages have been released," he said, referring to the release in the past two months of Betancourt's former vice presidential candidate, Clara Rojas, and five other former Colombian legislators who had been held by FARC for at least five years.
Sarkozy admitted that FARC number two Raul Reyes - killed Saturday by the Colombian military in Ecuadorian territory - was actively engaged in talks towards a hostage release.
"Mr Reyes was one of the spokesmen of FARC, but his death does not mean that there will be no discussion. FARC are on a list of terrorist organizations. FARC have to know whether they want to get out of that list or stay on it," he said.
"If they let Ingrid Betancourt die, of course there will be no discussion about that. If they release Ingrid Betancourt, perhaps a part of the world will look at them a bit differently," Sarkozy said.
"If Ingrid Betancourt is not released in a humanitarian framework they will never get off the list because, I insist, this would mean a murder in cold blood," he stressed.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chavez: Little chance FARC will free high-profile hostage

(CNN) --There is little chance Colombia rebels will free one-time Colombian presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt after that country's March 1 attack on a rebel camp inside Ecuador, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez discussed FARC hostages in Caracas on Tuesday.

The 44-year-old, who holds dual French citizenship, has been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia for more than six years.

In January, FARC rebels in southern Colombia handed over two hostages to representatives of the Red Cross and Venezuela.

And in February, FARC released four others.

Those released prisoners who had seen Betancourt said she was in poor health.

Last year, Chavez helped mediate a proposed exchange of jailed guerrillas for FARC hostages.

But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ended the talks in November after accusing Chavez of exceeding his authority.

"Before the attack on Ecuador, we were giving a high probability of the liberation of Ingrid," Chavez said during a news conference at his palace in Caracas. "After that, the probability fell," Chavez told reporters.

Also on Tuesday, the Ecuadoran government asked the Organization of American States to help smooth over relations with Colombia over the rebel camp attack. The request was made after Colombia's minister of defense, Juan Manuel Santos, declared that his country had committed "a legitimate act of war" inside Ecuador.

The attack killed about two dozen people, including Raul Reyes, the second-in-command of FARC, as well as an Ecuadoran and several Mexicans. Colombia said it found laptop computers belonging to FARC that indicated Venezuela was funding the guerrillas.

Venezuela denied the charge, and Ecuador and Venezuela promptly severed diplomatic relations with Colombia. Ecuador called the move an attack on its territorial sovereignty.

Ecuadoran OAS representative Maria Isabel Salvador called Santos' remarks "almost a declaration of war that, obviously, has to be rejected."

On Wednesday, relatives of the dead Ecuadoran, 38-year-old Franklin Aisalia, will travel to Bogota, Colombia, to repatriate his body.

Colombia has accused him of collaborating with the FARC, a claim that his father on Monday rejected.

Chavez also denounced the accusation, noting that Colombia originally identified the dead man as a Colombian.

"Now [Colombia] says, yes, it's an Ecuadoran, but a terrorist," Chavez said Tuesday. "And if the father comes to reclaim his son, he's a terrorist, too."

In comments directed at Santos, Chavez said, "Tell the truth instead of talking garbage about this supposed computer from Raul Reyes."

An end to the conflict between Ecuador and Colombia would be a good first step in securing Betancourt's freedom, Chavez said.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Revealed: Chávez role in cocaine trail to Europe

Terrible to Venezuela. It is sad that our Venezuelan Justice System can put him in jail........ This is too much.
vdebate reporter
Revealed: Chávez role in cocaine trail to Europe
The guerrilla group Farc has long been suspected of running the Colombian cocaine industry. But how does it move the drug so readily out of the country? In a special investigation, John Carlin in Venezuela reports on the remarkable collusion between Colombia's rebels and its neighbour's armed forces
John Carlin in Venezuela
The Observer,
Sunday February 3 2008
Article history
About this article
This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday February 03 2008 on p38 of the World news section.
Some fighters desert from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) because they feel betrayed by the leadership, demoralised by a sense that the socialist ideals that first informed the guerrilla group have been replaced by the savage capitalism of drug trafficking. Others leave to be with their families. Still others leave because they begin to think that, if they do not, they will die. Such is the case of Rafael, who deserted last September after 18 months operating in a Farc base inside Venezuela, with which Colombia shares a long border.
The logic of Rafael's decision seems, at first, perverse. He is back in Colombia today where, as a guerrilla deserter, he will live for the rest of his days under permanent threat of assassination by his former comrades. Venezuela, on the other hand, ought to have been a safe place to be a Farc guerrilla. President Hugo Chávez has publicly given Farc his political support and the Colombian army seems unlikely to succumb to the temptation to cross the border in violation of international law.
'All this is true,' says Rafael. 'The Colombian army doesn't cross the border and the guerrillas have a non-aggression pact with the Venezuelan military. The Venezuelan government lets Farc operate freely because they share the same left-wing, Bolivarian ideals, and because Farc bribes their people.'
Then what did he run away from? 'From a greater risk than the one I run now: from the daily battles with other guerrilla groups to see who controls the cocaine-trafficking routes. There is a lot of money at stake in control of the border where the drugs come in from Colombia. The safest route to transport cocaine to Europe is via Venezuela.'
Rafael is one of 2,400 guerrillas who deserted Farc last year. He is one of four I spoke to, all of whom had grown despondent about a purportedly left-wing revolutionary movement whose power and influence rests less on its political legitimacy and more on the benefits of having become the world's biggest kidnapping organisation and the world's leading traffickers in cocaine.
Farc has come a long way from its leftist revolutionary roots and is now commonly referred to in Colombia and elsewhere as 'narco-guerrillas'. Pushed out to the border areas, it has been rendered increasingly irrelevant politically and militarily due to the combined efforts of Colombia's centre-right President, Alvaro Uribe, and his principal backers, the United States, whose Plan Colombia, devised under the presidency of Bill Clinton, has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the Colombian military and police. A large part of Plan Colombia is designed to eradicate the vast coca plantations cultivated and maintained by Farc and other Colombian groups.
However, the impact on Farc has been ambiguous: its chances of launching a left-wing insurrection in the manner of Nicaragua's Sandinistas in 1979 are nil, but then they probably always were; yet it looks capable of surviving indefinitely as an armed force as a result of the income from its kidnapping, extortion and cocaine interests.
Helping it to survive, and prosper, is its friend and neighbour Hugo Chávez. The Venezuelan President sought to extract some international credit from the role he played as mediator in the release last month in Venezuelan territory of two kidnapped women, friends of Ingrid Betancourt, a French citizen and former Colombian presidential candidate held by Farc for six years. But Chávez has not denounced Farc for holding Betancourt and 43 other 'political' hostages.
I spoke at length to Rafael (not his real name) and three other Farc deserters about the links between the guerrilla group and Chávez's Venezuela, in particular their co-operation in the drug business. All four have handed themselves in to the Colombian government in recent months under an official programme to help former guerrillas adapt back to civilian life.
I also spoke to high-level security, intelligence and diplomatic sources from five countries, some of them face to face in Colombia and London, some of them by phone. All of them insisted on speaking off the record, either for political or safety reasons, both of which converge in Farc, the oldest functioning guerrilla organisation in the world and one that is richer, more numerous and better armed than any other single Colombian drug cartel and is classified as 'terrorist' by the European Union and the US.
All the sources I reached agreed that powerful elements within the Venezuelan state apparatus have forged a strong working relationship with Farc. They told me that Farc and Venezuelan state officials operated actively together on the ground, where military and drug-trafficking activities coincide. But the relationship becomes more passive, they said, less actively involved, the higher up the Venezuelan government you go. No source I spoke to accused Chávez himself of having a direct role in Colombia's giant drug-trafficking business. Yet the same people I interviewed struggled to believe that Chávez was not aware of the collusion between his armed forces and the leadership of Farc, as they also found it difficult to imagine that he has no knowledge of the degree to which Farc is involved in the cocaine trade.
I made various attempts to extract an official response to these allegations from the Venezuelan government. In the end Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro made a public pronouncement in Uruguay in which he said, without addressing the substance of the allegations, that they were part of a 'racist' and 'colonialist' campaign against Venezuela by the centre-left Spanish newspaper El País, where I originally wrote about Farc and the Venezuelan connection.
What no one disputes, however, is that Chávez is a political ally of Farc (last month he called on the EU and US to stop labelling its members 'terrorists') or that for many years Farc has used Venezuelan territory as a refuge. A less uncontroversial claim, made by all the sources to whom I spoke (the four disaffected guerrillas included), is that if it were not for cocaine, the fuel that feeds the Colombian war, Farc would long ago have disbanded.
The varied testimonies I have heard reveal that the co-operation between Venezuela and the guerrillas in transporting cocaine by land, air and sea is both extensive and systematic. Venezuela is also supplying arms to the guerrillas, offering them the protection of their armed forces in the field, and providing them with legal immunity de facto as they go about their giant illegal business.
Thirty per cent of the 600 tons of cocaine smuggled from Colombia each year goes through Venezuela. Most of that 30 per cent ends up in Europe, with Spain and Portugal being the principal ports of entry. The drug's value on European streets is some £7.5bn a year.
The infrastructure that Venezuela provides for the cocaine business has expanded dramatically over the past five years of Chávez's presidency, according to intelligence sources. Chávez's decision to expel the US Drug Enforcement Administration from his country in 2005 was celebrated both by Farc and drug lords in the conventional cartels with whom they sometimes work. According to Luis Hernando Gómez Bustamante, a Colombian kingpin caught by the police last February, 'Venezuela is the temple of drug trafficking.'
A European diplomat with many years of experience in Latin America echoed this view. 'The so-called anti-imperialist, socialist and Bolivarian nation that Chávez says he wants to create is en route to becoming a narco-state in the same way that Farc members have turned themselves into narco-guerrillas. Perhaps Chávez does not realise it but, unchecked, this phenomenon will corrode Venezuela like a cancer.'
The deserters I interviewed said that not only did the Venezuelan authorities provide armed protection to at least four permanent guerrilla camps inside their country, they turned a blind eye to bomb-making factories and bomber training programmes going on inside Farc camps. Rafael - tall and lithe, with the sculptured facial features of the classic Latin American 'guerrillero' - said he was trained in Venezuela to participate in a series of bomb attacks in Bogotá, Colombia's capital.
Co-operation between the Colombian guerrillas and the Venezuelan government extended, Rafael said, to the sale of arms by Chávez's military to Farc; to the supply of Venezuelan ID cards to regular guerrilla fighters and of Venezuelan passports to the guerrilla leaders so they were able to travel to Cuba and Europe; and also to a reciprocal understanding whereby Farc gave military training to the Bolivarian Forces of Liberation, a peculiar paramilitary group created by the Chávez government purportedly for the purpose of defending the motherland in case of American invasion.
Chávez's contacts with Farc are conducted via one of the members of the organisation's leadership, Iván Márquez, who also has a farm in Venezuela and who communicates with the President via senior officials of the Venezuelan intelligence service. As a Farc deserter who had filled a senior position in the propaganda department said: 'Farc shares three basic Bolivarian principles with Chávez: Latin American unity; the anti-imperialist struggle; and national sovereignty. These ideological positions lead them to converge on the tactical terrain.'
The tactical benefits of this Bolivarian (after the 19th-century Latin American liberator, Simón Bolívar) solidarity reach their maximum expression in the multinational cocaine industry. Different methods exist to transport the drug from Colombia to Europe, but what they all have in common is the participation, by omission or commission, of the Venezuelan authorities.
The most direct route is the aerial one. Small planes take off from remote jungle strips in Colombia and land in Venezuelan airfields. Then there are two options, according to intelligence sources. Either the same light planes continue on to Haiti or the Dominican Republic (the US government says that since 2006 its radar network has detected an increase from three to 15 in the number of 'suspicious flights' a week out of Venezuela); or the cocaine is loaded on to large planes that fly directly to countries in West Africa such as Guinea-Bissau or Ghana, from where it continues by sea to Portugal or the north-western Spanish province of Galicia, the entry points to the EU Schengen zone.
A less cumbersome traditional method for getting the drugs to Europe in small quantities is via passengers on international commercial flights - 'mules', as they call them in Colombia. One of the guerrilla deserters I spoke to, Marcelo, said he had taken part in 'eight or nine' missions of this type over 12 months. 'Operating inside Venezuela is the easiest thing in the world,' he said. 'Farc guerrillas are in there completely and the National Guard, the army and other Venezuelans in official positions offer them their services, in exchange for money. There are never shoot-outs between Farc and the guardia or army.'
Rafael said he took part in operations on a bigger scale, their final objective being to transport the cocaine by sea from Venezuelan ports on the Caribbean Sea. His rank in Farc was higher than Marcelo's and he had access to more confidential information. 'You receive the merchandise on the border, brought in by lorry,' he said. 'When the vehicle arrives the National Guard is waiting, already alerted to the fact that it was on its way. They have already been paid a bribe up front, so that the lorry can cross into Venezuela without problems.
'Sometimes they provide us with an escort for the next phase, which involves me and other comrades getting on to the lorry, or into a car that will drive along with it. We then make the 16-hour trip to Puerto Cabello, which is on the coast, west of Caracas. There the lorry is driven into a big warehouse controlled jointly by Venezuelan locals and by Farc, which is in charge of security. Members of the Venezuelan navy take care of customs matters and the safe departure of the vessels. They are alive to all that is going on and they facilitate everything Farc does.'
Rafael described a similar routine with drug operations involving the port of Maracaibo which, according to police sources, is 'a kind of paradise' for drug traffickers. Among whom - until last week when he was gunned down by a rival cartel in a Venezuelan town near the Colombian border - was one of the 'capos' most wanted internationally, a Colombian called Wilber Varela, but better known as 'Jabón', which means 'soap'. 'Varela and others like him set themselves up in stunning homes and buy bankrupt businesses and large tracts of land, converting themselves almost overnight into personages of great value to the local economy,' a police source said. 'Venezuela offers a perfect life insurance scheme for these criminals.'
This 'tactical' convergence between the Venezuelan armed forces and Farc extends to the military terrain. To the point that, according to one especially high-placed intelligence source I spoke to, the National Guard has control posts placed around the guerrilla camps. What for? 'To give them protection, which tells us that knowledge of the tight links between the soldiers on the ground and Farc reaches up to the highest decision-making levels of the Venezuelan military.'
Rafael told how he had travelled once by car with Captain Pedro Mendoza of the National Guard to a military base outside Caracas called Fuerte Tiuna. He entered with the captain, who handed him eight rifles. They then returned to the border with the rifles in the boot of the car.
Rafael said that members of the National Guard also supplied Farc with hand grenades, grenade-launchers and explosive material for bombs made out of a petrol-based substance called C-4.
An intelligence source confirmed that these small movements of arms occurred on a large scale. 'What we see is the drugs going from Colombia to Venezuela and the arms from Venezuela to Colombia. The arms move in a small but constant flow: 5,000 bullets, six rifles. It's very hard to detect because there are lots of small networks, very well co-ordinated, all of them by specialists in Farc.'
Rafael worked directly with these specialists, both in the arms and the drugs business, until he decided the time had come to change his life. 'In June and July I had received courses in making bombs alongside elements of Chávez's militias, the FBL. We learnt, there in a camp in Venezuela, how to put together different types of landmines and how to make bombs. They also taught us how to detonate bombs in a controlled fashion using mobile phones.'
They were training him, he said, for a mission in Bogotá. 'They gave us photos of our targets. We were going to work alongside two Farc groups based in the capital. The plan was to set off bombs, but as the date dawned I began to reflect that I could not continue this way. First, because of the danger from the military engagements we had with the ELN [another formerly left-wing guerrilla group] on the border over control of the drug routes and, second, because it now seemed to me there was a very real risk of getting caught and I believed I had already spent enough years in jail for the Farc cause. It was also highly possible that the security forces in Bogotá would kill me. That was why at the end of August I ran away and in September I handed myself in.'
A European diplomat who is well informed on the drug-trafficking business generally, and who is familiar with Rafael's allegations, made a comparison between the activities of Farc in Venezuela and hypothetically similar activities involving Eta in Spain.
'Imagine if Eta had a bomb-making school in Portugal inside camps protected by the Portuguese police, and that they planned to set off these bombs in Madrid; imagine that the Portuguese authorities furnished Eta with weapons in exchange for money obtained from the sales of drugs, in which the Portuguese authorities were also involved up to their necks: it would be a scandal of enormous proportions. Well, that, on a very big scale, is what the Venezuelan government is allowing to happen right now.'
'The truth,' one senior police source said, 'is that if Venezuela were to make a minimal effort to collaborate with the international community the difference it would make would be huge. We could easily capture two tons of cocaine a month more if they were just to turn up their police work one notch. They don't do it because the place is so corrupt but also, and this is the core reason, because of this "anti-imperialist" stand they take. "If this screws the imperialists," they think, "then how can we possibly help them?" The key to it all is a question of political will. And they don't have any.'
A similar logic applies, according to the highest-placed intelligence source I interviewed, regarding Farc's other speciality, kidnappings. 'If Hugo Chávez wanted it, he could force Farc to free Ingrid Betancourt tomorrow morning. He tells Farc: "You hand her over or it's game over in Venezuela for you." The dependence of Farc on the Venezuelans is so enormous that they could not afford to say no.'
A nation at war
· Colombia, the centre of the world's cocaine trade, has endured civil war for decades between left-wing rebels with roots in the peasant majority and right-wing paramilitaries with links to Spanish colonial landowners.
· Manuel 'Sureshot' Marulanda named his guerrilla band the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia in 1966.
· Farc is thought to have about 800 hostages. The most high-profile is Ingrid Betancourt, 45, held since 2002.
· Every Farc member takes a vow to fight for 'social justice' in Colombia.
· About a third of Farc guerrillas are thought to be women.
· Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez is pushing for 'Bolivarian socialism', while Colombian President Alvaro Uribe is a free-market conservative.

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