"Clown show" … Hugo Chavez rails against the Interpol findings, alleging a conspiracy between the US and Bogota.
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Rory Carroll in Caracas, smh
May 17, 2008
THE President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is facing serious allegations about his country's links to Colombian guerillas after Interpol bolstered the credibility of intercepted rebel documents.
The international police organisation announced that a two-month forensic investigation of laptops seized in a raid by Colombian security forces concluded they belonged to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
Leaks from the collection of 16,000 files and photographs have suggested high-ranking Venezuelan officials plotted to help the Marxist group obtain weapons and funding for its decades-long insurgency against the Colombian state.
The secretary-general of Interpol, Ronald Noble, said his experts had found "no alteration of the data by Colombian officials". The amount of information - 37,872 documents and 210,880 photographs - was much greater than previously thought.
Analysts have cautioned that FARC's memos may contain misinformation or wishful thinking.
Mr Chavez's ideological affinity with South America's most powerful guerilla force is no secret.
Earlier this year he negotiated the release of six hostages they held.
Providing logistical support, however, would be a radical escalation, given that the US and the European Union list FARC as a terrorist organisation and cocaine trafficker.
Mr Chavez maintains the documents are fakes and an attempt by the US and "imperialist lackeys" in Bogota, Colombia's capital, to smear his style of socialism.
The report, he said, was an Interpol "clown show" and, relations with Colombia as well as co-operation with Interpol would undergo "deep review".
The President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, whose leftist Government is also accused of conspiring with FARC, said the documents "prove absolutely nothing".
The raid on March 1, which resulted in the deaths of at least 25 people, yielded three laptops, three USB memory sticks and two external hard disks, which have been dubbed FARC's "brain".
In one leaked email, dated January 2007, FARC's military chief, Jorge Briceno, tells the rebels' governing secretariat that he planned to ask Mr Chavez for a loan of $US250 million, "to be repaid when we take power".
Republican hawks in Washington want Venezuela listed as a state sponsor of terrorism, along with Syria, Iran and North Korea.
The White House, hostile to Mr Chavez but wary of disrupting oil imports, has soft-pedalled on the issue, asking Venezuela to explain why some officials were "conspiring against a democratic neighbour".
Guardian News & Media,