Think-Tank and International Media Allege “Chávez-FARC Connections”

This week the London based think-tank, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), released a 240-page dossier analysing the alleged FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) computer files seized by Colombian security forces during a March 2008 raid.

By Rachael Boothroyd - Venezuelanalysis.com

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It is unclear how the dossier will affect Venezuela-Colombia relations (archive)
It is unclear how the dossier will affect Venezuela-Colombia relations (archive)
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Coro, May 12th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – This week the London based think-tank, International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), released a 240-page dossier analysing the alleged FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) computer files seized by Colombian security forces during a March 2008 raid.

In the dossier, entitled “The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of Raúl Reyes”, it is claimed that the Chávez government had substantial links with the FARC, offering to support them financially and requesting that the guerrillas provide what the international media has dubbed “urban guerrilla training” for pro-Chávez organisations.

The circumstances under which the files were obtained, as well as their authenticity, has remained a highly contentious issue since 2008. The illegal aerial bombing of the FARC camp – which resulted in the deaths of senior FARC commander Raúl Reyes and 24 guerrillas – was carried out by Colombian security forces on Ecuadoran territory without knowledge or permission from the Correa administration and resulted in severe diplomatic altercations between Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The Venezuelan government has always maintained that the files are a fabrication.

The Venezuelan Government Reacts to Latest Accusations

Although Heads of State, Hugo Chávez, Rafael Correa and Juan Manuel Santos have refrained from making comment on the release of the dossier amidst a rapprochement in Colombian-Venezuelan relations, the Venezuelan Embassy in London issued a statement rejecting the findings.

Expressing “surprise” that the IISS had used the “dubious” documents, the Embassy highlighted that even the “Colombian Supreme Court had rejected the “evidence” from the laptops, deeming them to be an inadmissible resource in the judicial process against Colombian politicians”.

The Embassy also noted that INTERPOL had been unable to categorically state whether the documents had been doctored or not.

In an interview with the Brazilian daily paper ‘O Estado’, Venezuela’s Foreign Relations Minister, Nicolás Maduro, dismissed the report as a politically motivated attack on the South, affirming that Venezuela had only made contact with the FARC organisation when asked to do so by Bogotá in order to further “humanitarian causes or to help with the rescue of hostages”.

“This report is just rubbish. Full of intrigue, lies and with one central objective: to sully the positive climate that we have established with the new government of Colombia... nobody in the world believes that this so-called computer is legitimate,” he added.

INTERPOL Cannot Vouch for Source of Content

In May 2008 INTERPOL published its findings from its “Forensic Report on the FARC Computers and Hardware Seized by Colombia”. The report was requested by the Colombian government in response to international demand in order to ascertain whether any of the files found on the computers had been “newly created, modified or deleted on or after 1 March 2008”.

The study did not extend to the origins of the files and INTERPOL clearly states: “the accuracy and source of the content of the data remain outside the scope of INTERPOL’s computer forensic examination”.

Having been found by the Colombian military in the wreckage of the FARC camp on the 1st of March, the exhibits were handed over to INTERPOL on the 10th – ten days after the initial attack. Despite Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa describing the assault as a “massacre”, the Colombian security forces claimed that the equipment had been found intact.

Although the INTERPOL report states that between the 3rd and 10th of March the Colombian authorities “conformed to internationally recognised principles for the handling of electronic evidence”, this was not the case for the initial 48 hour period following the discovery of the equipment.

Between the 1st and 3rd of March the Colombian Anti-Terrorist Unit accessed the files without having first made physical images of the data. During this time the report confirms that the hard drives and USB pen drives were connected to computers “without the use of write-blocking hardware”.

Even though INTERPOL found no evidence to suggest that user files had been tampered with, during this initial 48 hour period a total of 48,055 system files were created, modified or deleted in all eight of the exhibits as a direct result of this access.

Dodgy Dossier Part Two?

As a registered charity founded in 1958, the IISS claims that it was “hugely influential in setting the intellectual structures for managing the Cold War” and defines itself as the “primary source of accurate, objective information on international strategic issues for politicians and diplomats”.

The organisation is perhaps most famous for having produced “Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Net Assessment”, published on the 9th of September 2002 and edited by Gary Seymour, formerly of the US State Department.

It was this report that the Blair administration used to produce the allegedly “sexed-up” and now discredited WMD dossier, which was presented to British Parliament on the 24th of September 2002 as justification for the consequent invasion of Iraq.

One of the book’s editors, Nigel Inkster, former Deputy Director of MI6 and Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at IISS, stated that the organisation had not “begun the dossier with the words “J’accuse”, instead we tried to produce a sober analysis of the FARC since the 1990s”.  

International Media

Despite the ambiguities surrounding the origins and authenticity of the files, the international media has uncritically perpetuated the conclusions drawn by the IISS. The New York Times reported that “analysis shows that Venezuela asked Colombian rebels to kill opposition figures,” providing only internal FARC communiqués and no empirical evidence that the Venezuelan government met with FARC leaders at any point.