Venezuela Presents Evidence Against Colombia’s Claims that Venezuela Gave Weapons to FARC

On
Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez presented evidence that Colombia's
accusations that his government provided grenade launchers to the Armed
Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian guerrilla organization,
are false.

By James Suggett

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President Chavez talks to international reporters on Wednesday (EFE)
President Chavez talks to international reporters on Wednesday (EFE)
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Mérida, August 6th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) -- On
Wednesday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez presented evidence that Colombia's
accusations that his government provided grenade launchers to the Armed
Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Colombian guerrilla organization,
are false.

In a press conference dedicated largely to the issue, Chavez said the
three grenade launchers that Colombian soldiers said they found in possession
of the FARC recently might be those that were stolen when the guerrillas raided
a Venezuelan military post on the Colombian border in 1995.

Chavez, a former military officer trained in the use of grenade
launchers, handed reporters a series of official documents and photos that
Colombia sent to Venezuela in June. He pointed out a discrepancy between the
documents, which said the weapons still contained grenades when they were
found, and the photos of the weapons, which showed they had been fired and were
no longer loaded with grenades.

Last week, Colombia said it had confirmed that the weapons seized from
the FARC had been sold to the Venezuelan government by a Swedish arms company
in the 1980s.

The Venezuelan leader said it was "no coincidence" that the accusations
came shortly after Venezuela protested a recent deal in which Colombia gave
permission to the U.S. military to operate on seven Colombian bases, with the
official purpose of fighting drug trafficking and guerrilla insurgents.

"They have the right. But we also have rights. We feel threatened, and
it is good that Colombia knows it," said Chavez, who advocates "21st
Century Socialism" and was kidnapped in a two-day, U.S.-backed coup d'etat led
by Venezuelan business and military elites in 2002.  

Chavez said the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the Colombian
government support paramilitary soldiers that have crossed into Venezuela to
commit political murders and plot another coup d'etat. He displayed weapons
marked "Ejército de Colombia" (Colombian Army) that were seized from Colombian
paramilitaries illegally in Venezuela in 2004.

These bases could be the first step toward a war in South America, he
added.

Aside from repeated diplomatic conflicts, the administrations of Chavez
and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe have met several times this year to draw
up extensive plans for joint economic projects. Chavez said the U.S.'s goal is
to drive a wedge between such cooperation.

"The Yankees do not want us to unite as a region, they do not want
union between Venezuela and Colombia," said Chavez.

"I would prefer to be talking about bi-national railways, oil
pipelines, health care, literacy, and education with Colombia, but sadly we are
discussing other things," Chavez continued.

Last week, Venezuela cut off diplomatic relationships with Colombia and
announced it would purchase armored tanks from Russia in response to the U.S.
military buildup in Colombia. Venezuela also cancelled a deal to import 10,000
automobiles from Colombia, and threatened to further reduce economic ties.

Colombia's Minister of Agriculture, Andrés Fernández, said the cutoff
could cost Colombia gravely, since Venezuela is its second largest trading
partner after the U.S., with a total $7 billion in annual trade.

Chavez said Venezuela would be able to compensate for the loss of trade
with Colombia by increasing trade with Argentina, Brazil, and other allies in
the region. Venezuelan Agriculture and Land Minister Elías Jaua, Food Minister
Félix Osorio, and Commerce Minister Eduardo Samán plan to travel to Argentina
next week to increase food imports.

President Uribe, meanwhile, visited several South American heads of
state to offer explanations of the increased U.S. military presence in its
territory.

Most governments said that Colombia has the
right to host the U.S. military, but only Peruvian President Alan García
pledged unconditional support to Uribe. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet
recommended the problem be resolved by the political and military integration
organization UNASUR (Union of South American Nations). Bolivian President Evo
Morales said he would propose a resolution in UNASUR to reject all U.S.
military presence in member nations.