Colombian police claim that Venezuelan government paid FARC rebels $300 million

Monday, March 3, 2008

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FARC troops.

Speaking at a press conference Monday, Colombia's national police chief Gen. Oscar Naranjo said evidence from the computers of slain members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) suggests the Venezuelan government recently paid the militant guerrilla group US$300 million. He suggested that this may have been part of a deal to release several hostages held by the FARC.

"This unmasks the relations of the FARC with a series of governments, with a series of personalities, some public, some more sinister," Naranjo said. A representative of the Ecuadorian government may have been involved with the organization as well, he says, though Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has already denied these charges.

"They said we had a pact with terrorists, and that is completely false," Correa said during a Cabinet meeting. "We are dealing with an extremely cynical government."

Hugo Chávez

The police chief also said there was evidence of the Venezuelan government offering to help supply rifles and of 50 kilograms of uranium to FARC. To verify the evidence, the police chief said he will send the documents to the Organization of American States, who will meet in Washington on Tuesday to discuss the South American situation.

In addition, he says there is evidence that FARC had given U$150,000 to Hugo Chávez in 1992 when he was a jailed rebel leader. "A note recovered from Raúl Reyes speaks of how grateful Chávez was for the 100 million pesos that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, delivered to Chávez when he was in prison," Naranjo said.

Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador are involved in a conflict over the killing on Saturday of FARC spokesman Luis Edgar Devia Silva, also known as Raúl Reyes. Colombian security forces conducted a raid that extended into Ecuadorian territory.

Venezuela and Ecuador have ordered troops to the border with Colombia and have pulled their diplomats from the capital Bogota.

"We will not permit this outrage," said Rafael Correa. "The situation is extremely grave, and the Ecuadoran government is disposed to go to the ultimate consequences." President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez said the act was a "cowardly murder" and insulted Colombian President Alvaro Uribe as a liar, criminal and gangster.

Colombia says it has decided not to send extra troops to its borders or sever diplomatic ties with either of the two countries, Uribe said that his fight was against FARC and not any of these countries.