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Evidence Mounts Linking Chavez to Colombian, Spanish Rebels

Thursday, 20 May 2010 09:17 AM

MACHIQUES, VENEZUELA - For two years, Colombian officials have accused Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez of providing arms and sanctuary to Marxist rebels intent on toppling Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, Washington's closest ally in a turbulent region.

Now, based on documents and witness testimony, Chávez is facing fresh accusations that his government has gone well beyond assisting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.

Documents seized from two subversive groups, along with information provided by former Colombian guerrillas, suggest that Venezuela facilitated training sessions here between the FARC and ETA, a separatist group in Spain that uses assassinations and bombings in its effort to win independence for the northern Basque region.

The evidence led Judge Eloy Velasco of the National Court in Madrid to level charges of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder in March against a Chávez government official, Arturo Cubillas, and a dozen members of the FARC and ETA. Spanish authorities want Venezuela to extradite those accused, but so far the Chávez government has not responded to Velasco's international warrant.

The latest revelations, largely based on information collected by Spanish investigators in Colombia, Venezuela and France, prompted Arturo Valenzuela, the State Department's assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, to declare in a congressional hearing in March that the Obama administration is "extremely concerned" by the allegations.

With Chávez hamstrung by harsh economic conditions, some in the U.S. Congress worry that the Venezuelan president could increasingly radicalize and forge closer links with subversive organizations or nations such as Iran, Sudan and Belarus.

"As he gets more bogged down domestically by the natural consequences of capricious rule, we are likely to see more troubling relationships," Carl Meacham, senior aide to Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said by phone from Washington.

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Thursday, 20 May 2010 09:17 AM
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