Mérida, October 5th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – On Monday, the Venezuelan government denied an allegation by a Spanish judge that two suspected members of the militant Basque nationalist group ETA received training in weapons and communicating in code from a suspected ETA member in Venezuela.
Judge Ismael Moreno said the suspected ETA members Javier Atristain Gorosabel and Juan Carlos Besance, who were captured in Guipúzcoa province in the North of Spain on September 29th, were trained in July and August of 2008 by Arturo Cubillas, an alleged ETA member who has resided in Venezuela for more than two decades.
In response, Venezuelan Ambassador to Spain Isaías Rodríguez stated on National Radio of Spain, “The Venezuelan government is not linked in any way with any terrorist organization, especially with the Basque group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA). We ratify our most energetic condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
The ambassador reiterated Venezuela’s “commitment to cooperate in every moment with the Spanish government against this or any terrorist group.”
Rodríguez also questioned whether the testimonies of the two detainees were “extracted irregularly” by Spanish authorities or were part of an attempt by the detainees to obtain a lighter sentence.
President Hugo Chavez said the allegation was a “broken record” and part of a “permanent conspiracy against the true democratic processes.”
“It all forms part of the orchestra that continues to play against the Bolivarian Revolution,” said Chavez in a telephone call to a talk show on the state television station VTV. He suggested that the allegations are meant to justify an eventual military aggression or intervention in Venezuela.
The president read aloud a statement by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry asserting that the government “refutes and denies… any assertion that attempts to link it with the terrorist organization ETA, whose activities it rejects unequivocally.”
“Credibility cannot be given to the declarations made before a judge by two bloodthirsty criminals lacking in human and moral qualities,” the Ministry stated.
The ministry also said the allegation threatens the “relations of respect and mutual benefit that the governments of Venezuela and Spain maintain” and that Venezuela is willing to fulfill “judicial and policing cooperation agreements” that exist between the two governments if necessary to prove it does not support ETA.
On Monday, Spain’s third vice president, Manuel Chaves, said in an interview on the television station Telecinco that ETA members’ declarations cannot be trusted and must be “put in the freezer.”
Chaves recognized that “the president of Venezuela has made very clear declarations,” but urged the Venezuelan government to “walk on a path of greater decisiveness in order to eliminate doubts.” He said the Spanish government has requested more information from Venezuela.
On Tuesday, Spanish Deputy Prime Minister María Teresa Fernández de la Vega said Spain would probably solicit action from Venezuela’s justice system.
“We have seen some information coming from the judge, and we have sent it to Venezuela. President Chavez’s declaration of cooperation was very clear, so what we have to do is activate once again, although they are always activated, these mechanisms of cooperation,” La Vega stated.
Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba referred to the two suspected ETA militants’ testimony as “credible,” but clarified that “this does not mean that the Venezuelan government had anything to do with these training session in its territory, there is no evidence to indicate this.”
“There is no data, no statement of any of these ETA members to infer or even suspect that the Venezuelan government had anything to do with it. This I want to make it clear,” said Perez.
Jorge Moragas, the International Relations coordinator for Spain’s Partido Popular, said the testimonies confirm that Venezuela “has served as a place of refuge, sanctuary, or training” for ETA members.
Josu Erkoreka, a spokesperson for the Basque Nationalist Party in the Basque parliament, said it is the Spanish government’s “responsibility” to fully investigate the allegation, “in order to know with scientific certainty what presence ETA has in Venezuela.”
This is the second time so far this year that a Spanish judge has accused the Venezuelan government of having links to ETA, which Spain classifies as a terrorist organization. Last March, Judge Eloy Velasco accused Venezuela of supporting the ETA by employing Arturo Cubillas, the alleged ETA member who is suspected of having carried out weapons training to members of both ETA and the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Venezuela and Spain subsequently signed a formal agreement pledging to “deepen their relationship of friendship and cooperation in the anti-terrorist fight.” Weeks later, Venezuelan authorities at a Caracas airport denied entrance to Walter Wendelin, a German activist who works in solidarity with the Basque independence movement.
The United States and its chief South American ally, Colombia, have repeatedly accused Venezuela of supporting the FARC, which the US classifies as a terrorist organization along with ETA, and of not fully cooperating in the fight against drug trafficking. Last month, in the run-up to Venezuela’s National Assembly elections, an Argentine-born US citizen was arrested for attempting to sell nuclear weapon secrets to an under cover FBI agent posing as a Venezuelan government agent. The Venezuelan government was never involved, but some media outlets and politicians used the story to accuse Venezuela of pursuing a nuclear weapon.