Friday, May 16, 2008

Captured Computer Documents Reveal Chavez' Damning FARC Ties

UPDATE: Interpol Press Release and Interpol's Forensic Report on FARC Computers and Hardware Seized by Columbia.

FOX News (5-16-08) reports:

BOGOTA, Colombia — The onus is now on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to explain evidence of his apparently intimate ties to Colombia's main guerrilla army.

Interpol on Thursday endorsed the authenticity of computer files seized in a rebel camp, announcing that Colombia did not tamper with documents indicating Chavez sought to finance and arm the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Venezuelan officials set up contacts with Australian arms dealers and arranged for missile training in the Middle East, according to the documents, which were on computer hard drives seized by Colombia and obtained by the Washington Post.

[See Washington Post (5-15-08 here and (5-16-08) here; see articles by WP reporter Juan Forero here.]

Yet Chavez responded sarcastically to Interpol's conclusions.

"Do you think we should waste time here on something so ridiculous?" he told reporters in Caracas.

Chavez has denied providing the FARC material support, but did not address the issue directly on Thursday. Instead, he called Interpol's secretary general, Ronald Noble, "a tremendous actor," "Mr. Ignoble" and an "immoral police officer who applauds killers."

Noble was unequivocal when asked about the authenticity of the computer files, though he made pains to explain that the 186-nation international police agency did not and would not evaluate their content.

More revelations are bound to emerge, as Interpol also turned over to Colombia 983 files it decrypted in a process Noble said took 10 computers two full weeks.

Colombian commandos recovered the three Toshiba Satellite laptop computers, two external hard drives and three USB memory sticks in a March 1 cross-border raid into Ecuador that killed FARC foreign minister Raul Reyes and 24 others...

Colombia has been leaking details from the documents since the day after the raid. The most damning evidence against Chavez was revealed to The Associated Press last week.

More than a dozen rebel messages detail close cooperation with Venezuela, including rebel training facilities on Venezuelan soil and a meeting inside Venezuela's equivalent of the Pentagon.

They suggest Venezuela wanted to loan the rebels $250 million and help them get Russian weapons and possibly even surface-to-air missiles.

Chavez says his only purpose is to ward off a U.S. invasion — not to supply the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC...

But military analysts say it is Colombia that should fear the 100,000 Russian-made assault rifles, 5,000 Dragunov sniper rifles and surface-to-air missiles Venezuela is amassing.

"These are just the sorts of weapons that the FARC would find interesting since these are the standard tools of guerrilla warfare," said John Pike, a military analyst at GlobalSecurity.org.

U.S. military officials say the weapons proliferation far outweighs any threat Chavez faces in the region.
"We are seriously worried about this great quantity of acquisitions," U.S. Lt. Gen. Glenn Spears said recently.[See full text]

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