Sat, May 10, 2008 - Page 7 News List

US believes files showing Chavez-FARC ties are true

AFP , NEW YORK

US intelligence officials believe seized computer files showing strong ties between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Colombian rebels are authentic, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

The files show Venezuela offered to help arm the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the paper said, based on its review of more than 100 documents seized from a slain guerrilla leader’s computer in March.

“There is complete agreement in the intelligence community that these documents are what they purport to be,” an unnamed senior US official told the paper.

In the files, Venezuela appears to offer FARC use of a Venezuelan port to receive arms shipments, and suggests drawing up a joint security plan, the paper said.

In a document dating from November, Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez Chacin asked the FARC to train Venezuela’s military in guerrilla tactics, as preparation in case the US invades, the report said.

Caracas insists the files, seized by Colombia after it bombed a camp in Ecuador, killing FARC’s second-in-command Raul Reyes, are fakes.

“We don’t recognized the validity of any of these documents,” Venezuelan Ambassador to the US Bernardo Alvarez was quoted as saying in the latest denial on Wednesday.

“They are false, and an attempt to discredit the Venezuelan government.”

Colombia accused both Ecuador and Venezuela of colluding with its FARC rebel foes after seizing the computer records in a March 1 cross-border military strike that raised the specter of a regional military confrontation.

Colombian officials said they had found records of payments totaling US$300 million to the rebels from Chavez, and evidence of contacts between Reyes and Ecuadoran Interior Minister Gustavo Larrea.

Quito and Caracas strongly denied having ties to the FARC, broke diplomatic ties with Bogota and massed troops along their borders, then agreed to settle the standoff peacefully after meeting at a regional summit a week later.

Colombia, meanwhile, has sent thousands of seized documents to the US where they are being studied by technical experts.

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