On Thursday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro welcomed a decision by the Colombian Supreme Court to dismiss evidence said to be from the laptop computers of slain rebel leader Luis Edgar Devía Silva (aka Raúl Reyes). The court’s decision comes just a week after a right-wing think tank in the UK published a report based entirely on this same “inadmissible evidence” which attacks the Venezuelan government for supposed ties to Colombian rebels.
“This poisoned fable, this story of the Raúl Reyes computers, should now be passed on to the garbage dump of oblivion,” said Maduro on Thursday. “The Venezuelan component of this fable, which they’ve attempted to create, is finally coming to its end,” he affirmed.
Maduro’s comments came in response to the Colombian Supreme Court’s judicial opinion made public on Wednesday. It affirmed that military officials, who claim to have obtained material evidence (computers, documents, etc.) from the bombed Ecuadorian camp of Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) Commander Raúl Reyes, did so illegally.
An excerpt from court documents released by Colombia’s El Tiempo said that, “the Court considers that the archives from the computer of the guerrilla commander [Reyes]…were collected by military officials that do not have the functions of the judicial police”, making them inadmissible as evidence in the courts.
According to Colombia Reports, the Colombian Prosecutors Office went on to criticize the actions of the military officials, insisting that Colombia’s judicial police are the only law enforcement agents with “the authority to bring evidence from abroad, even less when ignoring foreign authorities.”
In a report on the Reyes computers, the International Police Organization (INTERPOL) reported that the Colombian authorities’ handling of the Reyes computers did “not conform to internationally recognised principles for the ordinary handling of electronic evidence by law enforcement.”
Colombia’s illegal 2008 bombardment of the FARC camp in Ecuadorian territory, the death of 15 people including Reyes, and the subsequent removal of “evidence” from the bombed camp caused heightened tensions between the government of Colombia, and those of Ecuador and Venezuela at the time.
Calls from then president of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), Nestor Kirchner, helped calm the tensions.
Speaking from the 17th Sao Paulo Forum currently being held in Managua, Nicaragua, the Venezuelan foreign minister also said he regretted the fact that “some spokespeople of the Venezuelan right have always fallen into these traps of intrigue, these media campaigns, this dirty war against our country” and said that the so-called ‘FARC Files’ are an attempt “to do damage” to the Bolivarian revolution.
“What we have learned from this experience,” said Maduro, “is that the path forward must always be one of transparency…that we must defend ourselves with the truth, and that in the end the truth will impose itself, as it has in this case.”
The IISS “Strategic Dossier”
Late last week, the UK’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released a 240-page report titled, The FARC Files: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of ‘Raúl Reyes,’ based on information supposedly pulled from the Reyes computers. In it, IISS writers accused the Venezuelan government of maintaining direct links with the FARC of Colombia – an organization classified by the U.S. State Department and European Union as “terrorists.”
International media outlets have used the IISS report to launch a renewed campaign against the government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.
The New York Times, for example, ran a story on 10 May 2011 entitled Venezuela Asked Colombian Rebels to Kill Opposition Figures, Analysis Shows. In it, the NY Times began by reproducing IISS assertions that “Colombia’s main rebel group [the FARC] has an intricate history of collaboration with Venezuelan officials, who have asked it to provide urban guerrilla training to pro-government cells here and to assassinate political opponents of Venezuela’s president.”
The Christian Science Monitor prepared its own piece, asserting that Chavez “for years has offered the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) financial support and sanctuary inside Venezuela, motivated by the belief that Colombia, and its ally the United States, would be less of a threat if it were mired in a rebel conflict.”
The BBC News ran a similar article entitled, Colombian FARC Rebels’ Link to Venezuela Detailed. The UK daily service said “the Colombian government gave the archive to the IISS to conduct a detailed analysis” and that the report “is based on thousands of rebel documents seized by Colombian forces in 2008.”
In their analysis on the IISS Strategic Dossier, the Guardian’s Greg Gandin and Miguel Salas pointed out that “impartial observers of the events surrounding the supposed capture of computer files from the FARC, and their subsequent revelation in the media, have long ago concluded that the files are highly dubious at best.”
Gandin and Salas argued that an INTERPOL investigative report found “that there was a one-week period between the computer documents’ capture by Colombia, and when they were handed over to Interpol, during which time the Colombian authorities actually modified 9,440 files, and deleted 2,905”. They called the IISS report a “an attempt by hawks in the US and the UK to perpetuate, using ‘black propaganda’, the failed policies of the George W Bush administration, as well as previous administrations of the cold war era, to which they respectively once belonged”.