US Government Denies Involvement in Kidnapping of Colombian Guerilla Leader

Following President Chavez's accusations of US involvement in the Granda kidnapping and State Department Ereli's admission that the U.S. government provides intelligence to Colombia on such matters, the State Department backtracked, saying it had no involvement.

Caracas, January 26, 2005—The US Department of State released a communiqué yesterday, categorically rejecting allegations made by the Venezuelan government that the United States participated in the capture of Rodrigo Granda. The State Department also demanded an explanation from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as to why he permitted a high-level official of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to move freely within Venezuelan territory and to obtain a passport. 

Over the weekend President Chavez had argued that the U.S. government was behind the heightened tensions between Colombia and Venezuela and suggested that it was involved in Granda’s kidnapping. When asked the next day, State Department spokesperson Adam Ereli said, the U.S. was involved, “to the extent that we help provide information and share information, yes.”

Yesterday’s communiqué, which sought to correct Ereli’s statements of the previous day, went on to add that the Venezuelan president “has never presented any evidence to support his claim of US government involvement in the incident – because there is none.”

After refuting such accusations, the Department of State turned the tables on the Venezuelan government, insisting that they elucidate as to how Rodrigo Granda was able to travel undetected in Venezuela for over a year.

The Minister of the Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacon, had confirmed before the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 20th that the “Foreign Minister” of the FARC spent the past year living with his wife, daughter and granddaughter in Los Caobos, an apartment complex in downtown Caracas. 

While the tone of the State Department brief insinuated that the oil-rich nation had full knowledge of Granda’s dwellings, “We urge the government of President Chavez to explain why it allowed a senior Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia terrorist to freely move within its territory and even obtain a Venezuelan passport,” the residents of the upper-middle class apartment building say that they did not even know the revolutionary’s name. 

According to Caracas daily newspaper, Ultimas Noticias, “The residents of the complex recall a quiet and well-manner man whose name they never knew…One neighbor across the hall (from Granda) categorized him as very educated, adding that “he treated my daughter with a lot of affection.”

In addition, the United States demanded that Venezuela initiate an investigation following up on the information recently provided by the Colombian government concerning the whereabouts of members of the FARC and other “terrorist” organizations in Venezuela.

In response to the declarations made Monday, by the US Department of State, Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel released a communiqué yesterday, rejecting US meddling in Venezuelan affairs and repudiating the northern nation’s offer to “mediate” the conflict.

Rangel asserted that the United States, instead of helping to resolve the conflict, is “stoking the fire of confrontation”.  “Venezuela does not have to explain what is happening to the government of the United States,” Rangel affirmed.

Granda thought he would be executed

According to Miguel Gonzalez, the lawyer of Rodrigo Granda, the FARC official believed he would be executed by his captors while he was being transported in the trunk of a car for more than 630 kilometers across Venezuela to the Colombian border town of Cúcuta.

“He was handcuffed and blindfolded.  He did not even know who he had been kidnapped by,” affirmed Gonzalez, adding that “He thought that they were going to kill him. It was very traumatic.” 

After the 16 hour ordeal, Granda was arrested by Colombian police in the Colombian border city of Cúcuta.

Granda is currently being held in a maximum security prison in Colombia under the charges of aggravated rebellion. Additional charges are expected to be added within the week.