Venezuelan Government Rejects Accusations of Links to Colombian Guerrilla and Spain’s ETA

Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Relations called allegations linking the Venezuelan government to the Basque separatist movement, ETA, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, politically motivated and unacceptable.

Mérida, March 3rd, 2010 ( )– Venezuela’s Ministry of Foreign Relations called allegations linking the Venezuelan government to the Basque separatist movement, ETA, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, FARC, politically motivated and unacceptable in a statement released on Tuesday.

The allegation of collusion with terrorists was made Monday by the Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco, who accused the Chávez government of protecting an alliance between the Colombian guerrilla movement and ETA.

ETA, known by its Basque initials, is an armed movement which has employed terrorist tactics in its decades-long war for independence from Spain.  The FARC is Colombia’s largest guerilla movement which has been operating in the country for more than 30 years.

The accusations currently being levied against Venezuela stem from a Spanish court’s investigation into the links between the FARC and ETA.  According to Velasco, members of ETA have received training in explosives from FARC guerrillas in Venezuela and Arturo Cubillas Fontán, an alleged ETA member who has held various posts in the Chávez government, has acted as a liaison between the two groups. 

The Venezuelan Ambassador to Spain, Isaías Rodríguez, has rejected the claims of the Spanish magistrate, calling them assumptions based on very shaky evidence and lacking in convincing proof. 

According to Rodríguez, Velasco has based his accusations on manipulated information derived from a laptop computer that allegedly belonged to FARC guerilla leader, Raul Reyes.  The “magic laptop”, as it has come to be known, was recovered from a FARC camp that was bombed by the Colombian army in Ecuadoran territory in March 2008. 

Surviving the bombardment which left 25 people dead, three laptops were said to be recovered by the Colombian army, being widely reported as containing documents and files which demonstrate cooperation between the Venezuelan government and the FARC.   

The veracity of the files recovered from the computers has been questioned by many who believe the information was either tampered with or fabricated by the Colombian armed forces before being handed over to the international police agency, INTERPOL.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, while in Uruguay for the swearing in ceremony of the new president, José Mujica, referred to the new allegations as “sad remnants of the old chains which some would like to hang from our necks again.”

It has been a particularly trying week for the leader. Within the past 7 days, his government has been accused of human rights violations by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, narco-trafficking by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, and terrorism by the Spanish court.   

“It is like an orchestra,” the Venezuelan president commented from Montevideo, “everyone gets together.  In Spain, the royal audience, in Washington as well, and a few days ago the pernicious Inter-American Court of Human Rights dedicates 300 pages to us. It’s clear that this is not a coincidence.  It’s an orchestrated effort and behind it all is the yankee empire.”

While Chávez and Venezuelan officials minimized the significance of the recent accusations, the conservative opposition to President José Zapatero in Spain is calling for the consideration of a complete break of relations with Venezuela as a result of the judge’s indictment.

Under pressure at home, Zapatero, the leader of Spain’s Socialist Worker’s Party whose government has maintained strong relations with Venezuela,  has asked for a response to the charges from the Chávez government. 

Spain’s Foreign Affairs Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos spoke with President Chávez late Monday night and reported that the Venezuelan president has demonstrated his willingness to clear up any doubts that may exist around his government’s alleged links to ETA.     

In a statement made on Tuesday, the president of the Foreign Policy Commission of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Congressman Roy Daza, confirmed that the allegations, while lamentable, will not damage Venezuela’s current relations with Spain. 

“These declarations will not change our relations with the Spanish government, relations which are at a high point right now.  We must continue to work for their strengthening,” said Daza.