The New York Times | 8/3/2009 12:00:00 AM
Venezuela Still Aids Colombia Rebels, New Material Shows
Despite repeated denials by President Hugo Chávez, Venezuelan officials have continued to assist commanders of Colombia’s largest rebel group, helping them arrange weapons deals in Venezuela and even obtain identity cards to move with ease on Venezuelan soil, according to computer material captured from the rebels in recent months and under review by Western intelligence agencies. --The New York Times.
The new evidence — drawn from computer material captured from the rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC — comes at a low point for ties between Venezuela and Colombia. Mr. Chávez froze diplomatic relations in late July, chafing at assertions by Colombia’s government that Swedish rocket launchers sold to Venezuela ended up in the hands of the FARC. Venezuela’s reaction was also fueled by Colombia’s plans to increase American troop levels there.
“Colombia’s government is trying to build a case in the media against our country that serves its own political agenda,” said Bernardo Álvarez, Venezuela’s ambassador in Washington, describing the latest intelligence information as “noncorroborated.”
Mr. Chávez has disputed claims of his government’s collaboration with the rebels since Colombian forces raided a FARC encampment in Ecuador last year. During the raid, Colombian commandos obtained the computers of a FARC commander with encrypted e-mail messages that described a history of close ties between Mr. Chávez’s government and the rebel group, which has long crossed over into Venezuelan territory for refuge.
The newest communications, circulated among the seven members of the FARC’s secretariat, suggest that little has changed with Venezuela’s assistance since the raid. The New York Times obtained a copy of the computer material from an intelligence agency that is analyzing it.
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