Venezuela Dismisses Human Rights Watch’s Demand to Clarify FARC Relationship

The United States-based NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) requested Tuesday that the Venezuelan government “provide a full accounting of its relationship” with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). Venezuela dismissed the request.
Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco demanded "serious answers" about Venezuela's relationship with Colombian guerrillas. (Union Radio)

Mérida, June 3, 2008 (– The United States-based non-government organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) requested Tuesday that the Venezuelan government “provide a full accounting of its relationship” with the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC). Venezuela’s Ambassador to the OAS responded to the request by saying that HRW is joining with forces that want to oust President Chavez.

HRW urged President Hugo Chávez to officially ban support for the FARC, and asked the Organization of American States (OAS) to investigate Venezuela’s relationship with the Colombian insurgents.

Analyzing excerpts of documents released by the Colombian government last March, the HRW Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco said that if the contents of those documents “are in fact accurate, they show that the FARC was set to receive much more than rhetorical support from the Chávez government.”

Colombia claims to have found the documents in laptop computers picked up from the wreckage of the FARC camp inside Ecuador that Colombia bombarded March 1st, where FARC commander Raul Reyes, the alleged owner of the laptops and chief negotiator of hostage releases, was killed.

HRW has not had direct access to the computer files, according to the organization’s press release Tuesday. Requests for access to these files, even by Colombian Supreme Court, have so far gone unheeded by the Colombian and U.S. governments, in whose custody the files remain.

According to HRW, the excerpts of emails made public by Colombia indicate that the FARC met personally with top Venezuelan officials including President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan Generals Hugo Carvajal Barrios, and Clíver Alcalá Cordones, and the Minister of Justice and the Interior Ramón Rodríguez Chacín.

Vivanco demanded that Venezuela verify if such meetings actually took place, and if so, Venezuela should reveal what was discussed in those meetings.

President Chávez should “issue clear instructions that no Venezuelan government or military official should provide any form of assistance to the FARC,” and punish violators of the norm, the rights organization urged.

HRW also criticized Chávez for expressing sympathy for the FARC and advocating that the FARC be treated as a political rather than terrorist organization.

Vivanco judged that “for any government to support a guerrilla group like the FARC that routinely commits atrocities against civilians is entirely beyond the pale”. He specifically referred to Chávez’s pronouncements in January 2008 that the FARC have “a political and Bolivarian project that is respected here [in Venezuela],” and Chávez’s call for a moment of silence to observe the death of Raul Reyes in March.

Finally, HRW called for a “rigorous and impartial” investigation of FARC-Venezuela links by the OAS. The OAS, by request of the Ecuadorian government, has already committed to investigating Colombia’s accusations that Ecuador offered refuge to the rebels.

In response, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS, Roy Chaderton Matos, declared that HRW is an ally of the White House that is “uniting its voice with the people and the institutions of the international ultra-Right.”

Chaderton expressed that HRW and its allies are conjuring up “concerted montages” meant to disrupt the process of participatory democracy and social justice underway in Venezuela.

HRW’s report is only “pertinent within the interests that Vivanco defends,” Chaderton concluded.

President Chavez has repeatedly denied that Venezuela provided any kind of material support to the FARC and that the only contacts his government has had with the FARC was to facilitate the release of hostages held by the FARC. In early 2008 Chavez managed to convince the FARC to release six out of 45 of its high profile hostages.

Two weeks ago, Interior Minister Rodriguez Chacín said he had met personally with FARC leaders during the negotiations of hostage releases which Colombia invited Venezuela to help mediate last August. Rodriguez Chacín assured that the “only contacts” President Chávez had with the FARC were at the request of the Colombian government for the sake of the peace process.

Countering accusations that Venezuela supports the FARC, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Minsiter, Nicolás Maduro, denounced to the general assembly at the OAS summit in Medellín Tuesday that the Cuban-Venezuelan terrorist Luis Posada Carriles “finds himself free and protected by the United States government in Florida, recently he enjoyed a public dinner of homage to his heroism in the murder of innocent men and women in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America”, referring to a recent gathering of 500 Cuban exiles in Miami.

Maduro said that if the United States wishes to combat terrorism, it should immediately extradite Posada Carriles to Venezuela, where he is wanted on 73 charges of homicide for his role in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airplane, according to the Venezuelan lawyer who is handling the case, José Pertierra.

In Pertierra’s opinion, “The United States does not have any moral possibility to talk about Venezuela as a terrorist country [because] it is the principal terrorist country of the world.”