Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Former FARC Guerrillas Confirm Venezuela's Assistance and Support (Translation Included)


Maria Angelica Correa Interviews Two Former FARC Guerrillas

Ever since the release of the first items from the laptop computers of slain FARC leader Raul Reyes in early March, there has been both a steady stream of information coming into the media about the FARC and its activities as well as a renewed effort among a few dedicated journalists, and especially within the Latin American media, to investigate the story of the FARC's activities. While we are still waiting for the report of the Interpol computer forensics experts that will verify the assertions of the Colombian government that all the information released is authentic, the early indications clearly suggest that the data provided in the Reyes documents is genuine.

It may be important to note that beyond specific details useful to intelligence services and international police agencies in their work, which have already led to the arrest of an international arms dealer in Thailand, the search of a FARC house in Costa Rica used in drug trafficking operations where $480,000 in cash was found, and the seizure of 66 pounds of uranium in a home north of Bogota; most of the information surfacing from the Reyes' computers has verified previous claims of the Colombian government and other informed observers of the international scope of the FARC's operations and support, to wit, that Hugo Chavez has been using the resources of the Venezuelan government to support the guerrilla insurgency against a neighboring state. Therefore; the substantial impact of the Reyes documents is about verification of this fact, not its discovery.

What follows is a translated article excerpt from the original Spanish up at the Perfil.com website (Buenos Aires), in which Venezuelan journalist Maria Angelica Correa interviews two former FARC guerrillas now "demobilized." The information they provide is significant, because it asserts a direct link between Hugo Chavez's government and the FARC guerrillas, including oversight and logistical support for both their kidnapping and drug-smuggling operations.


Translation (Excerpt): Exclusive Testimony of Four Deserters

Regretful Former FARC and ELN Members Reveal How Chavez Supports the Guerrillas

The information found in the computer of fallen guerrilla leader Raul Reyes gave birth to a controversy that turned attention to the bonds between the Venezuelan government and the Colombian insurgency. Although President Hugo Chavez has publicly denied cooperating with the FARC and the ELN, four ex-members of those organizations interviewed by Perfil relate how they operated freely in Venezuelan territory and the way in which they received assistance from the Bolivarian security forces, including preparation of false documents, carrying out kidnappings and drug trafficking.

By Maria Angelica Correa

"I spent seven years among the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia), belonging to the Bloque Oriental (Eastern Bloc), I was a militiaman of the Tenth Front. My duties were intelligence, logistical and military operations." The man speaking is one of the hundreds of Colombians who are deserting the guerrillas. To protect his personal security we are calling him "Javier." At his side is "Maria," his wife, who joined this same front of the FARC for a year to follow her husband. "I was assigned to the areas of intelligence, extortions, kidnappings, and the purchase of weapons," she relates.

-The two of you were in Venezuela?

Javier: Yes. From April of 2006 until September of 2007, which is when I was demobilized.

-Does the FARC recruit Venezuelan children to form a part of their ranks?

J: Yes, in the Apure zone. It is a frequent sight to see Venezuelan girls of 15 or 16 years of age carrying a rifle and performing the normal work of all guerrillas.

-Do the two of you have Venezuelan identity papers?

J: Yes, personnel of the National Office of Identification and Foreignership (ONIDEX) sent them to us.

-Did you hand over your Colombian papers?

J: No. What they did was to take my photo, fingerprint, and I signed. They also handed me a Venezuelan passport. This was done in Caracas.

-Do you know of fellow guerrillas who have voted with these identity papers?

J: There are guerrillas who have Colombian and Venezuelan citizenship, and vote in Venezuela.

-Do you know who they voted for?

Maria: In the elections of December of 2006 the order from our command was to vote for Chavez.

J: We were promoting and, practically, submitting to the people that it was necessary and obligatory to vote for Chavez to continue with the revolutionary process that is being carried out in Venezuela.

-Did you have contact with Venezuelan government officials?

J: Yes. More than anyone with the National Guard. Logistically, they gave us a zone where we set up improvised encampments. There is a non-aggression pact [in force] there, of not putting us at odds with them nor them with us.

-What else did they provide?

J: Munitions and weapons.

-Do guerrilla leaders exist who have their bases of operations in Venezuela?

J: Yes, in Barinas and in Elorza.

-Did you have knowledge of meetings of high Venezuelan government officials with guerrilla leaders?

J: More than anyone of the mayors. Also government employees of the township and the government of Barinas.

-The two of you were in Apure. Did you hear any talk there of the Bolivarian Forces of Liberation?

J: Yes, they are also called "the Boliches." They have received military training from the FARC. They are operating in the Apure and Tachira zone.

-At any time did you receive medical attention from the Cubans?

J: Many times. When we would have injuries they moved us to clinics where [the Cubans] worked clandestinely with us in San Cristobal.

-Did you at any time use Venezuelan military uniforms?

J: Yes. Personnel of the National Guard supplied us uniforms from the Regional No. 1 [unit].

-Were the two of you present at the transport of drugs in Venezuela?

J: Many times we would receive the merchandise, cocaine, that came from Cucuta or from Arauca and we transported it up to the ports, where it would leave the country.

-The National Guard was not in the port?

J: The National Guard worked more than anything else in the transport of merchandise up to the arrival site.

-Did the customs bureau know you were guerrillas?

J: Yes, and also that we were escorting the merchandise. They were in charge of depositing it in containers and bringing it up to the departing ships.

-Has the FARC kidnapped Venezuelans?

J: Yes. I have knowledge of this because many times I was involved in communications operations with their families.

-In what conditions did you keep them?

J: The majority were kept tied up with polyester, hands and feet, for 24 hours a day. At meal times, we would release them, and when they needed to go to the latrine, they were also sent with two guards.

-Did you have a relationship with security organs of the Venezuelan state?

J: There were contacts with them, but the company commanders maintained them.

-How did these government employees collaborate with the kidnappings?

J: Often they did the kidnappings and took them to us up at the encampments. They took care of the transport of people and we, as FARC, were in charge of handling the negotiations and the possession of the person, and a percentage was given to them.

-How much?

J: The percentage that we handled was 30%.

-How did you note the difference when the kidnapping was in Colombia and when it was in Venezuela?

M: In the collaboration of the [Venezuelan National] Guard.

J: Because in Colombia we have the Army going about harassing, patrolling, while in Venezuela the zones are secure.

Recognized Journalist

Journalist Maria Angelica Correa, author of this series of interviews, was born in Valencia, Venezuela. She worked with El Nuevo Pais and Revista Zeta and in distinct audio-visual media. In January of 2007 she received an Honorable Mention for the King of Spain's prize for Ibero-American journalism, for an investigation about Giovanny Vazquez de Armas, the main witness to the murder of prosecutor Danilo Anderson.

In November of 2004 Anderson was murdered in Caracas. The government accused its adversaries of having planned his death. The Ministry of Justice pressed charges against the journalist Patricia Poleo accusing her, together with three other persons, of being the intellectual author of the crime. Vasquez de Armas gave assurances of having participated in three meetings where the murder was planned.

Correa demonstrated that this witness was a recurring pathological liar. He appeared as a psychiatrist but he had never been to a university and lied saying that he was a member of the third detachment of a known Colombian guerrilla group. Moreover, she verified that he never could have participated in those meetings because on those dates he was detained for fraud.

. . .

You can read more in the original Spanish on the rest of this article, which contains additional information on the recent tensions between Colombia and Venezeula at Perfil.com.

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