Chávez Urges Colombian Rebels to End Their Struggle

Por Venezuela Real - 9 de Junio, 2008, 14:56, Categoría: Política Internacional

SIMON ROMERO
The New York Times
June 09, 2008


President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela called on Sunday for Colombia’s largest guerrilla group to end its four-decade struggle to overthrow Colombia’s government, a surprising policy shift just months after he called for the rebels to be recognized as a legitimate insurgent force.

Mr. Chávez’s comments came a day after Colombian authorities announced the capture in eastern Colombia of two Venezuelans, including one man identified as a Venezuelan national guard officer, carrying 40,000 AK-47 assault rifle cartridges, which the Colombians said were intended for use by the guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Venezuela’s government has been battling accusations from Colombian officials in recent weeks that it has tried to provide arms and financing to the FARC. Venezuela might face economic sanctions if the claims are true, since the European Union and United States classify the FARC as a terrorist group.

“You in the FARC should know something,” Mr. Chávez said in the broadcast of his Sunday television program, during which he also called on the rebels to release dozens of hostages, including three American military contractors. “You have become an excuse for the empire to threaten all of us,” he said, using his term for the United States.

It was not clear whether the FARC would heed Mr. Chávez’s call or even respond to it. While Mr. Chávez is admired within the ranks of FARC as an iconic leftist leader, the FARC is better prepared than any rebel group in recent Latin American history to soldier on, financing its struggle with cocaine trafficking and abductions for ransom.

Still, the FARC does seem to be at a turning point. Several senior commanders in the group have been killed in the past year and Colombian intelligence operatives have recently infiltrated the group’s top echelons. Mr. Chávez may have been acknowledging the possible disintegration of the group when he said in his televised remarks on Sunday, “The guerrilla war is history.”

“At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place,” he continued.
But the possibility of political isolation may also have influenced his shift. On Saturday, Venezuela initially rejected Colombia’s claim that one of the Venezuelans captured with the munitions cache was a military officer, but Venezuelan officials softened their tone on Sunday, saying they were investigating.





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