Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hugo Chavez calls using twitter "terrorism"

Hugo Chavez calls using Twitter “terrorism”
January 27, 2010

For a man intent into taking Venezuelan into the Dark Ages, it was a remarkable admission that modernity can be a threat to Hugo Chavez and his fake revolution. As students used the Internet and its tools like Twitter as wel as other modern tools like SMS messaging to mobilize and communicate strategy instantly, Hugo Chavez made his second attack on the Internet in a single week, calling the rumors and use of this technology “terrorism”:

A week ago Chavez had said that his supporters had to watch out for the Internet and tonight he came on TV wearing a suit, rather than his usual red garb and began reading messages (which were too long to be from Twitter), calling it terrorism (right at the end, minute 3:50 or so)

Can Chavez really expect that his trusted friend and confidant resigns as Vice-President and Minister of Defense for “personal reasons” (and his wife as Minister of the Environment) and there will be no rumors?

Chavez repeated again his wish, which the opposition has paid absolutely no attention to, that to get rid of him his opponents had to call for a recall referendum, a tool that would not only be distracting, but quite difficult to achieve as the recall votes would have to exceed the number of votes he got in his Presidential reelection in 2006. (Chavez has made such a call four times in the last three weeks and seems frustrated by the lack of even a response) This would be difficult given the resources of the Government as well as the difficulty of mobilizing the voters at this time. The opposition wants to concentrate in the legislative elections in September, letting Chavez ride the harvest of his own incompetence until 2012 when his term expires.

The truth is that it is the Government has the weapons in this fight and is the one that has sponsored the violence against the students, who in turn have managed to use peaceful means to stop the violence like today at Government’s TV station VTV. But it was the Tupamaros who caused most of the violence in Merida, aided by the local law enforcement agencies. And it was Chavez who was seen mingling with Lina Ron in his Saturday rally, a woman that has led armed attacks on marches and was imprisoned in January 2009 for leading a violent attack against Globovision. Chavez can’t attack the opposition on the protests as the students have led the protests and do not respond to the political leaders of the opposition parties.

In the end it is ironic how Chavez evokes the fundamentalism of his Iranians buddies, who have also referred to the Internet and Twitter as terrorists, which is mocked in this hilarious cartoon below:

But in the end, besides feeling the threat from a weapon Chavez does not control or understand totally, maybe his key problem is that he could never make adequate use of it. For a man accustomed to uninterrupted speeches of six to eight hours, it must be simply impossible to even consider the possibility of communicating anything in 140 characters.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Friend in low places

I agree with this statement:
"Although this seems far-fetched perhaps the world should start to take him a little more seriously"
Vdebate reporter
Friends in low places

Sep 15th 2009 CARACAS

Hugo Chávez dreams of forging a new world order

THE mountains and jungles of South America are not ideal terrain for tank warfare. So it is hard to envisage what role Venezuela’s president, Hugo Chávez, has in mind for the dozens of Russian tanks on his latest military shopping list. The strategic purpose of a recent tour that took him to some of the world’s least salubrious regimes is, however, easier to discern. And it led America’s State Department to give warning on Monday September 14th of a “serious challenge to stability” in the region.

Venezuela’s increasingly autocratic leader returned on Friday from a trip that took him to Libya, Iran, Algeria, Syria, Turkmenistan, Belarus and Russia, though he also found time for a visit Spain and the Venice film festival. On his jaunt he was decorated by Libya’s leader, Muammar Qaddafi, and embraced by Aleksandr Lukashenko, president of Belarus.

Apart from discussing weapons and oil with the Russians, he also courted condemnation by inviting Sudan’s pariah president, Omar al-Bashir, to Caracas, and breezily announced a nuclear co-operation deal with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president. Since the latter revelation was made to Le Figaro, a French newspaper, it fell to the French foreign ministry to issue a curt reminder of UN Security Council resolution 1737. This explicitly forbids the export by Iran of material from its controversial nuclear programme, which Mr Chávez supports.

The trip did much to bolster Mr Chávez’s well-earned reputation for outrageous statements. But there is method to his madness. The foreign-policy section of Venezuela’s “First Socialist Plan—2007-2013” (dubbed the “Simón Bolívar National Project”) assigns an “integral political alliance” with Iran, Syria, Belarus and Russia the highest priority outside the Latin American and Caribbean region. The rationale for this curious hotchpotch of alliances is the “common anti-imperialist interests” of those five countries—the imperialist in question being America.

Among the scheme’s aims is the strengthening of national defence and sovereignty. Not only the tanks but sophisticated anti-aircraft systems make up the order to Russia. Mr Chávez, a former lieutenant-colonel in Venezuela’s army, says these weapons will make it “very difficult for foreign aircraft to come and bomb us”. Having already spent at least $4.4 billion on Russian weapons, he has now secured an additional $2.2 billion credit-line from that country to lavish on more military hardware. Three submarines are among other possible purchases, press reports say.

In pursuit of his goal to “break North American imperialist hegemony”, the Venezuelan president has deployed to the full his prime asset—the country’s oil reserves. Thus Iran was promised 20,000 barrels of petrol a day, in potential defiance of sanctions advocated by America and despite Venezuela’s current problems supplying its own markets with fuel. Russia’s national oil consortium was also assigned a patch of the Orinoco heavy oil belt.

Closer to home, Mr Chávez’s strategic plans have come a little unstuck. He has so far failed in his quest for admittance to the Mercosur trade block. ALBA, his alliance of like-minded governments, lost a member after a coup in Honduras just over six weeks ago. And he has failed to secure regional condemnation of Colombia’s decision to allow American troops to deploy in seven military bases in the country.

Undaunted, he continues to pursue “greater world leadership”. If attention is what he is seeking, he finally seems to have got it. Last week Robert Morgenthau, a veteran New York district attorney, gave warning that Venezuela’s alliance with Iran was a threat to American interests. Bank accounts in Andorra supposedly belonging to individuals close to Mr Chávez have been frozen, reportedly because of the American Treasury Department’s suspicions of links to terrorism.

Mr Chávez is determined to play in the big leagues. His avowed calculation is that by helping to stir up trouble for America in many places simultaneously, he can bring about the collapse of “the empire”. The regimes he is so assiduously cultivating are, by this account, the nucleus of a new world order. Although this seems far-fetched perhaps the world should start to take him a little more seriously.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Tear gas fired on Vatican office in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela (CNN) -- Three tear gas canisters were fired Wednesday at the Vatican's diplomatic headquarters in Venezuela, the second such attack in less than three weeks, church officials and local media reports said.

No one was reported injured, and damage was minimal.

The incident occurred just hours after the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, which includes Catholics, issued a proclamation condemning a recent attack on the main synagogue in Caracas, Venezuela.

In that incident, about 15 armed men forced their way into the Mariperez Synagogue about 10 p.m. Friday and defaced the administrative offices with anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalized an interior room where the Torah is kept. Graffiti left at the scene included the phrases, "Damn the Jews," "Jews out of here" and "Israel assassins." The men also left behind a picture of a devil, authorities said.

The synagogue had canceled services in recent weeks because of a feared backlash from the now-concluded Israeli military operations in Gaza, which led to the expulsions of the Israeli and Venezuelan ambassadors to each country.

The Vatican office in Caracas previously came under attack January 19, when six tear gas canisters were fired. Three of them landed deep inside the building, but no one was seriously injured.

Two other tear gas attacks were reported that day, one at the home of a private TV station director critical of the government and another at the University of Central Venezuela. That attack came as a student leader whose car had been torched two days earlier held a news conference to denounce violence.

The student leader, Ricardo Sanchez, leads a movement opposed to a constitutional amendment on the ballot this month that would allow leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to run for a third consecutive six-year term in 2012. The National Assembly approved the referendum last month. Venezuelans narrowly rejected a similar measure in a December 2007 referendum.

Chavez called for the referendum in late November, one week after candidates he supported won a majority of the seats in local elections that were seen as a test of his influence.

Meanwhile, no one claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack at the Vatican office, unlike the other two attacks.

This was the seventh attack on the the nunciature. CNN affiliate Globovision TV said after the previous attack that it was the sixth.

Globovision aired video Wednesday that showed spent canisters on the sidewalk outside the Vatican office.

In January, a group calling itself Colectiva la Piedrita, which is said to support Chavez's socialist agenda, claimed responsibility for the attack on the Vatican office. Pamphlets left outside the building accused the Catholic Church of treason against the Venezuelan people.

The Vatican Nunciature in Caracas has been giving asylum since June to Nixon Moreno, a Venezuelan student leader accused of attempting to rape a policewoman and wounding several police officers in a 2006 shootout. Venezuela has not granted Moreno safe passage to leave the country, and he remains holed up in the Nunciature.

Colectiva la Piedrita also previously claimed responsibility for similar attacks against Globovision, the homes of two journalists, the newspaper El Nuevo Pais and the headquarters for the Christian socialist party COPEI, Globovision said on its Web site

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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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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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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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Friday, March 7, 2008

Second Colombian rebel leader killed

Second Colombian rebel leader killed

CUCUTA, Colombia (CNN) -- As South American officials tried to ease tensions sparked by Colombia's killing of a rebel leader inside Ecuador, the Colombian army announced the death of another top militant Friday.

A cooler allegedly containing the hand of Ivan Rios is examined at a military base in Manizales.

1 of 3 Ivan Rios, whose real name was Manuel de Jesus Munoz, was one of six remaining members of the leadership council of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

"The FARC has suffered a new, major blow," Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said, according to The Associated Press.

Rios was killed by his own chief of security, who offered items including the rebel leader's severed right hand as proof of his death, the AP quoted Santos as saying.

On Saturday, Luis Edgar Devia Silva, known as Raul Reyes, was killed in a raid into Ecuador.

He was FARC's second-in-command -- and the first member of the leftist rebel group's general secretariat killed by Colombia in the 40 years that it has been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government.

Twenty-one other people were also killed in the attack.

The raid sparked protests from the left-leaning leaders of Ecuador, Venezuela and Nicaragua, all of whom cut diplomatic ties with Colombia, and Ecuador and Venezuela moved troops to their borders with Colombia.

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Allies of Terrorism

Allies of Terrorism
Editorial Washington Post
The presidents of Venezuela and Ecuador are revealed as backers of the criminals who fight Colombia's democracy.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008

LAST SATURDAY, Colombia's armed forces struck a bold blow against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a group specializing in drug trafficking, abductions and massacres of civilians that has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe. Raúl Reyes, a top commander, and some 20 followers were killed in a bombing of their jungle camp in Ecuador, a mile or two from the Colombian border. The attack was comparable to those the United States has recently carried out against al-Qaeda in lawless areas of Pakistan, and it showed how Colombia's democratic government may be finally gaining the upper hand over the murderous gangs that have tormented the country for decades.

Now this remarkable success has been overshadowed by the extraordinary reaction of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, who has been revealed as an explicit supporter and possible financier of the FARC. Mr. Chávez openly mourned the death of Mr. Reyes and made a show of ordering Venezuelan troops to the border with Colombia while loudly warning that war was possible. He goaded his client, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa -- whose initial response to the raid was subdued -- into mimicking his reaction. He then partially closed the border with Colombia, a step that will merely worsen the food shortages that have emptied Venezuelan supermarket shelves.

It turns out that both Mr. Chávez and Mr. Correa may have had something to hide. Senior Colombian officials say a laptop recovered at the FARC camp contained evidence that Mr. Chávez had recently given the group $300 million and had financial links with the terrorists dating to his own failed coup against a previous Venezuelan government in 1992. Colombia said Mr. Correa's government had been negotiating with Mr. Reyes about replacing Ecuadorean military officers who might object to his use of the country as a base. In other words, both Mr. Correa and Mr. Chávez were backing an armed movement with an established record of terrorism and drug trafficking against the democratically elected government of their neighbor. No wonder Colombian President álvaro Uribe felt compelled to order the cross-border raid; he knows that his neighbors are providing a haven for the terrorists.

There's little chance that this will lead to conventional war, despite the bluster of Mr. Chávez. The more interesting question is how average citizens in Venezuela and Ecuador will react. The FARC is despised across the region for its criminality and brutality; many Venezuelans have been shocked to learn of Mr. Chávez's alliance with the group. According to Mr. Chávez's former defense minister, Raúl Baduel, the Venezuelan military is troubled by the saber-rattling at Colombia. In his zeal to divert attention from a rapidly worsening domestic economic situation and his defeat in a recent referendum, Mr. Chávez is growing increasingly reckless. The principal danger, however, may be to his own country and government.

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Monday, March 3, 2008

Colombian rebel leader killed in battle

Colombian rebel leader killed in battle
German Ecniso-Ancol / EPA

Troops chase guerrillas into Ecuador. Death of FARC's chief diplomat could shake up the group, analysts say.

By Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
March 2, 2008

BOGOTA, COLOMBIA -- The second-highest-ranking leader in Colombia's largest leftist guerrilla group was killed in a predawn firefight near the Ecuadorean border, the Colombian government announced Saturday morning.

Luis Edgar Devia Silva, better known by his alias Raul Reyes, was found dead early Saturday in a jungle camp in Ecuador after a battle erupted between rebels and Colombian armed forces in southern Putumayo state and continued on the Ecuadorean side of the border.

Reyes, 59, was second in the hierarchy of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and was the rebel group's principal spokesman and chief diplomat. He was one of 50 FARC leaders indicted in the United States on drug and terrorism charges in March 2006. The U.S. State Department had offered a $5-million reward for information leading to his arrest.

Analysts described the killing of Reyes, part of the seven-member FARC secretariat, as the most damaging blow yet struck by the government of President Alvaro Uribe in his five-year campaign to defeat the rebels.

"This is of enormous importance. Reyes was the public face of the FARC and the only one who had international contacts," former Foreign Minister Maria Emma Mejia told Colombian TV network Caracol. Former President Ernesto Samper told an RCN television reporter that Uribe's campaign is "showing results and this is an example." Seventeen other rebels and one Colombian soldier were killed in the battle.

Reyes was the FARC's chief negotiator with the Colombian government during the failed peace process between 1998 and 2002 and visited several foreign countries to muster support. Recently, Reyes led negotiations that resulted in the FARC releasing six political hostages to representatives of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, including four last week.

U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-Mass.), who has been involved in back-channel efforts to persuade the FARC to release three U.S. defense contractor employees held since 2003, in a telephone interview declined to comment on how Reyes' death would affect those efforts.

"We sent a letter last week through our contacts to the FARC asking that the humanitarian releases continue and that we have a specific interest in the three Americans," said Delahunt, who met Reyes in 1999 in a peace mission to the Colombian jungle. "We're still waiting for a reply."

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro issued a statement Saturday evening criticizing the killing of Reyes as a "blow to the humanitarian accord process in Colombia. . . . It reveals once again the stubborn conduct of those who favor military options and armed conflict over a negotiated political settlement, without regard to the grave consequences."

Chavez later threatened Uribe with war if Colombian forces entered his country as they did Ecuador, according to Venezuelan news reports.

In a news conference Saturday, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the fight began when Colombian aircraft, acting on a tip that Reyes was present, bombed a FARC encampment at a village called Granada around midnight Friday.

As troops closed in, they took fire from rebels about a mile away on the Ecuadorean side of the Putumayo River, which separates the two countries at that point.

After Colombian planes returned fire from their airspace, soldiers were ordered to cross into Ecuador to continue the fight. President Uribe, who was monitoring the operation, called Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa to inform him of the operation "as it was happening," a Colombian Defense Ministry spokesman said.

It was unclear from government statements whether Uribe had Correa's permission to send troops into Ecuador.

On a Saturday morning radio show in Quito, Ecuador's capital, Correa acknowledged receiving Uribe's call and said FARC rebels at times made incursions into his country. He made no comment on the Colombian troops' presence there.

The rebels use Ecuadorean territory for rest and recuperation and as refuge from army attacks. Correa is said by Colombian and U.S. authorities to be concerned about the FARC's presence and increased drug trafficking, much of which the rebels control.

In recent interviews, Colombian military sources have told The Times that Correa's government has been highly cooperative in anti-drug operations targeting the FARC in the common border area.

The Colombian government said that after recovering Reyes' body in the Ecuadorean village of Santa Rosa, which is within a mile of the initial attack, soldiers took it to the Colombian town of Puerto Asis. It was not clear on which side of the border Reyes was killed.

Reyes entered the FARC after working as a labor leader in the southeastern jungle state of Caqueta, where he organized employees of Nestle. In the 1990s, Reyes headed the FARC's so-called international front that kept offices in Mexico and Costa Rica.

Since taking office in 2002, Uribe has succeeded in retaking large swaths of territory from the FARC, which is principally based in the sparsely populated jungle regions in the southeastern part of Colombia. That success is due in large part to billions of dollars in U.S. military aid that has enabled him to expand and modernize Colombia's armed forces.

According to the U.S. State Department's annual report on drugs released Friday, Colombia's military last year apprehended or killed more than a dozen mid- to high-level FARC commanders. Among the dead were FARC 37th Front leader Gustavo Rueda Diaz, alias Martin Caballero, and 16th Front leader Tomas Medina Caracas, alias Negro Acacio.

But Reyes is the first member of the secretariat to be brought down.

Alfredo Rangel, director of the Security and Democracy Foundation, a Bogota-based think tank, said the killing delivered a blow to FARC morale and could presage big changes in the rebel group.

"Reyes led the radical faction of FARC leadership, so his death could lead to a recomposition in favor of a more practical and realistic side, in terms of making a humanitarian agreement" to release hundreds of hostages still in FARC custody, Rangel said.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Colombian rebels to release more hostages

CNN.- Leftist rebels in Colombia plan to release four hostages this week whom they have held for several years, senior officials in Venezuela and Colombia said.

Angela de Perez, wife of hostage Luis Eladio Perez, hugs Venezuelan official Ramon Rodriguez on Monday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, plans to release the hostages Wednesday morning, Venezuelan Interior and Justice Minister Ramon Rodriguez said Monday. His comments were reported by the Bolivarian News Agency, which is based in Venezuela.

The four hostages are former Colombian legislators: former Sen. Luis Eladio Perez and former Reps. Gloria Polanco, Orlando Beltran and Jorge Gechem, The Associated Press reported.

In Colombia, Army Cmdr. Mario Montoya said his government has given all necessary security guarantees for the hostage handoff to take place. He said that no Colombian military operations will take place near where the hostages may be freed, according to a report on a Colombian government Web site.

The four former legislators are among an estimated 750 hostages the FARC has held, many for several years, in the jungles of Colombia.

The rebel force released two hostages last month in a deal brokered by President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, whose left-wing political philosophy is not far from that of the FARC, a force that was organized in the 1960s as a Marxist army intent on overthrowing the Colombian government.

The United States, the European Union and Colombia call the FARC a terrorist organization. They have resisted calls from Venezuela to lift that label in light of last month's release of the two hostages: a former Colombian congresswoman and a former candidate for the vice presidency. They had been held for about six years.

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Days after the FARC released them amid widespread news coverage, the rebels kidnapped six tourists whose boat had come ashore on Colombia's Pacific Coast.

The Venezuelan government knows the coordinates where it plans to retrieve the four, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez and Montoya said that both of their governments have been coordinating with the International Committee of the Red Cross, which Rodriguez said will "ensure the hostages' health at the moment of their delivery."

The FARC has justified hostage-taking as a legitimate military tactic in a long-running and complex civil war that also has involved right-wing paramilitaries, government forces and drug traffickers.

Perhaps the highest-profile captive in FARC custody is Ingrid Betancourt, a French-Colombian citizen and former candidate for the Colombian presidency. She was kidnapped February 23, 2002, after she and a campaign manager ventured into rebel-held territory despite warnings from the Colombian military. The FARC released her campaign manager last month.

Three U.S. citizens have been in FARC custody for more than five years. They are defense contractors who fell into rebel hands after their plane went down during a drug-eradication flight in 2003

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Chavez to Colombia: FARC You

Chavez to Colombia: FARC You
By John R. Thomson
Monday, January 21, 2008

In the ongoing saga between Venezuelan despot President Hugo Chavez and Colombian democratic President Alvaro Uribe, Chavez for the moment appears to have the upper hand. He basks in the glow of – finally – securing the release of two female hostages from the narco-trafficking and kidnapping terrorist FARC [the Spanish abbreviation of Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia] organization.
However, analysts in Caracas and Bogota, the countries’ capitals, are betting Chavez has overplayed his hand and that Uribe will prevail not only against his Venezuelan nemesis but also in his war of attrition against Colombia’s guerrilla gangs.
Uribe ended 2007 with the powerful revelation that one reason FARC’s once bruited, oft delayed Christmas release of three hostages had not taken place was that Emmanuel – born in captivity – was in fact already in a Bogota foster home. Undoubtedly under great pressure from an embarrassed Chavez, the release of the two ladies, both prominent politicians and one Emmanuel’s mother, ultimately took place this past week.

The cracks in the Chavez – FARC peace façade are already appearing: less than 72 hours following the two ladies’ release, FARC gunmen kidnapped six others from a beach on Colombia’s Pacific coast.

At the same time, Chavez’s plea for FARC and ELN, the two leading guerrilla groups, to no longer be called “terrorists” but belligerent combatants was rejected out of hand, not just in Bogota and Washington but also by the European Union, indicating how low the once romanticized revolutionary “freedom fighters” have fallen.
Leftist Colombian political figures are separating themselves from Chavez’s attempt to legitimize the FARC. Carlos Gaviria, head of the far left Polo Democratico party, as well as Senator Gustavo Petro, a Polo Democratico leader and close friend of Chavez, have both deplored the Venezuelan’s call to end the guerrillas’ terrorist designation.

All sides are holding Afro-Colombian Senator Piedad Cordoba accountable for her ardent support of Chavez and, implicitly, the FARC. A prime factor: several weeks ago, more than five million citizens marched in the streets of the country’s main cities, demanding that the kidnapping stop and those held be released.

The Chavez-FARC alliance is not new. The FARC has enjoyed safe haven basing rights in the western jungles bordering Colombia for its troops and safe houses in Caracas for its leaders for many years. More recently, Venezuelan authorities have enabled some 300 tons annually of Colombian cocaine through the country for re-export to Europe and the U.S. – a highly profitable arrangement for both FARC and Chavez.
As important, there are strong indications that significant amounts of Russian arms purchased by Venezuela are being transshipped to FARC camps for use in their “liberation movement”.

Colombia’s Alvaro Uribe seeks to implement a multi-faceted effort to free more hostages and to strengthen his country’s anti-guerrilla position:

Surprisingly, Uribe has acquiesced in Hugo Chavez serving as a clearly biased “mediator” in hostage relief efforts. With more than 700 hostages, results to date are miniscule, but every release or escape is widely welcomed by the Colombian people, whatever the reason.

A strong government effort to win over guerrillas has been spectacularly successful, especially with the ELN, the second most powerful terror organization. Inducements to lay down their arms include cash as well as technical training programs sponsored by America’s Plan Colombia.

Simultaneously, Colombian military efforts to eliminate guerrilla leaders and encampments are steadily progressing.

Critical to the Colombian strategy is approval by the U.S. Congress of the pending free trade agreement. To date, Democrats and their labor union allies have offered multiple excuses for holding the agreement hostage [big labor has committed to spending $200 million in support of Democrats during the 2008 election cycle].
In an effort to offset the pull of American labor bosses, Colombia has shown several Congressional delegations the results of the Uribe administration’s ongoing efforts to curb violence, quell the narcotics trade and curtail what have always been minimal human rights abuses.

Unfortunately, the latest group of Washington travelers ended their visit with a carefully balanced pair of utterances. Representative James McGovern [D-Massachusetts] earned positive points by demurring from Chavez’s call for Colombia’s guerrilla groups to be legitimized as belligerents.

However, Rep. George Miller [D-California], chairman of the House Education & Labor Committee, said it was not an appropriate time to take up the free trade agreement, because of “new realities” facing the U.S. economy, including rising unemployment and recession fears. Sadly, Miller ignored the economy-strengthening fact that the FTA allows more than 90 percent of American products and services duty free status, which combined with the undervalued dollar provides significant export growth potential. This was the Democrats’ fifth rationale for refusing to take up the bilateral trade deal since its agreement by both parties in late 2006.

Such a position is extraordinarily frustrating to Colombians in and out of government, because very few of the country’s existing and prospective exports – key among them coffee and fresh flowers – prove a threat to U.S. producers. That said, encouraging legitimate agricultural exports is a strong means of discouraging farmers from cultivating the coca plant, the source of 90 percent of the world’s cocaine.

Given a little help from its friend to the north, Colombia has a very good chance of achieving the Uribe government’s ambitious plans. Despite Hugo Chavez’s current coup in the freeing of two FARC hostages, it can be hoped that truly bipartisan Congressional consideration of the free trade agreement will result in its passage, to the benefit of both countries and a particular boon to efforts to stabilize Colombia.

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