Chavez reviews Colombia ties after Interpol report

Por Venezuela Real - 15 de Mayo, 2008, 22:00, Categoría: Prensa Internacional

Patrick Markey
Washington Post
May 15, 2008

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Thursday said he was reviewing ties with Colombia after an Interpol report authenticated rebel computer documents that Bogota says prove the leftist leader has supported guerrillas.

The international police agency announced earlier on Thursday that the documents showed no evidence of tampering but said it could not verify the computer contents. Chavez has dismissed Bogota's charges as U.S.-backed propaganda.

Accusations based on the files from three laptops, hard drives and computer data keys are fueling tensions in the Andean region, where Colombia is Washington's closest ally and Venezuela and Ecuador are fierce U.S. critics.

"We are obliged to once again deeply revise political, diplomatic and economic relations with Colombia," Chavez told a news conference in Caracas after the Interpol announcement in Colombia.

"They keep on assaulting us and this shameful show today was a new act of aggression," he said. "Nothing matters to them, they have no shame."

The international police agency's conclusion reinforced Colombian and U.S. officials' charges that the files show Venezuela has backed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

But Interpol said it did not verify the files' contents, leaving open to debate whether they tie Chavez to Latin America's oldest insurgency.

"Interpol concludes there was no tampering with any data," Interpol chief Ronald Noble said through an interpreter in a Bogota. "We are absolutely certain that the computer discs our experts examined came from a FARC terrorist camp."

Colombia, which along with the United States labels the FARC terrorists, seized the laptops in a March raid on a rebel camp inside Ecuador that killed a guerrilla leader.

Chavez said the computers were planted at the guerrilla camp after the raid. He called Interpol chief Noble a "typical, aggressive gringo policeman."

Relations have been strained since the March raid when Colombian forces killed rebel commander Raul Reyes, sparking a diplomatic crisis and fueling fears of war in the region.

Colombia asked Interpol to carry out tests to guarantee it had not manipulated the rebel material.

Dozens of Interpol agents scoured a selection of what Noble said were the equivalent of 40 million Microsoft Word pages, including videos, photographs, data spreadsheets and nearly 1,000 encrypted files.

Colombian police claim the archives show that Chavez offered financial aid to the rebels and that Ecuador's leader Rafael Correa allowed them to hide across his frontier. U.S. officials say documents reveal the rebels' deep ties to Venezuela's government.

"There are serious allegations about Venezuela supplying arms and support to a terrorist organization," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

U.S. officials often portray Chavez as a threat to regional stability as he pushes his socialist revolution. The former soldier says the United States is plotting with Colombia to oust him.

Chavez and Correa say contacts with rebels were made only as part of mediation efforts to free hostages held by the guerrillas.

The documents have prompted calls in the U.S. Congress for sanctions against Venezuela, a major U.S. oil supplier.

"Today's developments once again show the need for the State Department to fully recognize the very real threat that Chavez and his allies pose," Republican Rep. Connie Mack of Florida said.

But with oil prices hovering around record highs in a presidential election year, Washington was not expected to take a tougher line or apply sanctions without more evidence against Chavez, analysts said.

(Additional reporting by Frank Daniel in Caracas; Editing by Saul Hudson and Eric Walsh)





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