Los Angeles Times
June 09, 2008
Is it a political ploy or a heartfelt plea for regional peace? Or maybe something of both?
On Sunday, Venezuela president Hugo Chavez urged Colombia's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, to surrender their arms, free dozens of hostages unconditionally and basically give up their more than 40-year armed insurrection.
Chavez sent what this Associated Press story dryly describes as "the uncharacteristic message" to the FARC, "saying their ongoing efforts to overthrow Colombia's democratically elected government were unjustified."
"The guerrilla war is history," Chavez said during his weekly television and radio program. "At this moment in Latin America, an armed guerrilla movement is out of place."
"Such declarations were unexpected from Chavez, who has long been accused of giving the rebels refuge. A self-described socialist, he called on world governments to remove the FARC from terrorist lists earlier this year, suggesting the group is in fact a legitimate insurgency."
"Colombia's government claims that a laptop recovered from a FARC camp in March shows a history of deep collaboration between the rebels and Chavez - something the Venezuelan leader denies."
Also, as the Times Chris Kraul reports, Chavez, "bowing to popular pressure," says that he will "rescind a new intelligence law that critics said would have forced citizens to spy on one another and would have moved the country toward a police state."