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04/03/2010 | Chávez Dismisses Spanish Claim of Rebel Links

Reuters Staff

President Hugo Chávez said Wednesday that his administration did not support terrorist groups, in his first response to a Spanish judge who accused Venezuela of having links with Basque separatists and a rebel group in Colombia.

 

Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain had askedVenezuela to explain itself after the judge said Monday that Venezuelan soldiers and a man accused of being a Basque separatist working for the Caracas government had facilitated a meeting between the separatists and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Both organizations are considered terrorist groups by European governments.

“This is a government that does not and will not support terrorist groups — we are of peace, of friendship,” Mr. Chávez said in a televised speech.

“Zapatero, I have nothing to explain, friend, nothing,” Mr. Chávez said. “If you want explanations, then ask that irresponsible judge in your country.”

In his 11 years in office, Mr. Chávez has been dogged by accusations that his government lends support to groups like the FARC or Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon.

Mr. Chávez, who leads a left-wing regional bloc aimed at countering American influence in Latin America, typically dismisses such accusations as part of a Washington-led strategy to discredit him.

Judge Eloy Velasco of the National Court in Spain said that as a result of the meetings facilitated by Venezuela, including one in 2007, the FARC asked the Basque separatist group ETA for logistical help in case it decided to try to assassinate Colombian officials visiting Spain, including President Álvaro Uribe.

The judge issued arrest warrants for 13 people suspected of membership in the FARC and ETA, including a Spanish-born official in Venezuela’s government.

His accusations were based on information gleaned from a laptop obtained by the Colombian government after a bombing raid on a FARC guerrilla camp in Ecuador in 2008 that killed the rebel group’s No. 2 commander, Raúl Reyes.

Venezuela says the Colombians tampered with the information on the laptop. “We are victims of an intense orchestrated international attack against Venezuela,” Mr. Chávez said.

The Marxist-inspired FARC has killed thousands of people over decades in a war to overthrow the Colombian government.

ETA has killed more than 850 people, fighting for independence for the Basque region.

NY Times (Estados Unidos)

 


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