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A diplomatic row has erupted between Spain and Venezuela after a Spanish judge accused officials in Caracas of plotting with rebel groups to kill Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and other political officials.
Spanish National Court Judge Eloy Velasco charged on Monday that the government of Hugo Chávez had been working as an intermediary between the Basque separatist group ETA and the Colombian guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The groups were allegedly plotting against prominent political figures living in or traveling through Spain. Venezuelan officials have dismissed these allegations as “biased and unfounded.”
"There is evidence … showing the cooperation of the Venezuelan government in the illegal collaboration between FARC and ETA," according to the indictment....
The indictments also bring fresh attention to Spain's National Court, whose judges act on their own investigations and are independent from Spain's executive and legislative branches. Some judges have gained international attention, and criticism, for their handling of global cases involving other governments, including an investigation into allegations of US torture at Guantanamo Bay.
Although Mr. Chávez has yet to comment on the allegations, throughout Caracas the charges have been met with widespread contempt. “We do not house guerrillas, nor do we have a pact with guerrillas,” said Venezuelan Congressman Hayden Pirela in an article by Iran’s Press TV.
According to Judge Velasco’s 26-page report, however, up to six ETA members traveled to Venezuela to train FARC members how to use C4 explosives in cellphone bombs, reports The Guardian. In at least one instance, members from the Venezuelan military may have been present for the demolitions training. The report also says that ETA members may have traveled through Venezuela en route to FARC training camps in Colombia.
A Venezuelan agriculture ministry official, identified as Arturo Cubillas Fontán, is alleged to be the ETA's ringleader in Latin America and the link man with FARC.
Government officials in Caracas counter that many of the accusations in the report come from information that was obtained from a computer that used to belong to Raul Reyes, FARC’s former No. 2, who was killed by the Colombian military in March 2008, reports the Latin American Herald Tribune.
In its communique, the Venezuelan government calls it “surprising that the judge resuscitates the worn-out farce of the computer, which has already become a part of Colombian political folklore.”
The dispute is likely to strain leaders in Venezuela, Spain, and Colombia. Venezuela’s ailing economy and electricity shortages have already dealt a serious blow to Chávez’s popularity. In Spain and Colombia, it will test the diplomatic work of leaders who’ve been working to build stronger ties with Venezuela.
Although Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero has demanded an immediate explanation of the alleged terrorist links from Venezuela, the Spanish leader says he is still awaiting a response. The Olive Press, an online Spanish newspaper, reports that Mr. Zapatero said: “The government of Spain will decide what to do when it receives that explanation.”