May 12, 2008
CARACAS -- A close confidante of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez says he's proud to have met with leaders of Colombia's largest rebel group.
But Justice Minister Ramon Rodríguez Chacín says the meetings with leaders of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, were authorized by Colombia's government.
He denies the talks were aimed at arming and financing the insurgents as Colombia claims. Colombian officials say they recovered documents from computers belonging to a slain guerrilla leader that suggest such a connection.
The Venezuelan official said Monday that he met with the FARC's seven-member ruling Secretariat, including rebel commander Manuel Marulanda.
But he did not clarify if the talks were part of mediation efforts that helped facilitate the release of six rebel-held hostages earlier this year.