Capture of FARC member creates crisis between Venezuela and Colombia

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South America

Saturday, January 15, 2005

South America – On December 14, Colombian officers arrested Rodrigo Granda, the chief of international relations for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia - FARC. The Venezuelan government said Granda was arrested inside Venezuela's borders, so the arrest was illegal and Granda was actually kidnapped. The Colombian government said that Venezuelans detained Granda inside Venezuela borders because of a reward offered for his capture by the Colombian government. They said he was moved to the region near the border of Venezuela, but inside Colombian territory, where officers finally arrested him.

The FARC is considered a terrorist group by the government of Colombia and by the United States [1], a Colombian ally in the fight against FARC.

The FARC is a Marxist revolutionary group with about 12,000 members. The group originated from the Colombian Communist Party of the 1960s. The FARC's main stated objective is the creation of a Communist government in Colombia. Colombian authorities routinely search their members.

During the Cold War, the movement received some help from the former Soviet Union. In recent years, the majority of its funding has come from kidnapping, extortion, hijacking, and illegal trade in cocaine. The FARC attacks Colombian political and military installations and what the group considers to be strategic targets.

The National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, or MIPT, an organization based in Oklahoma, US, has associated FARC with 446 incidents resulting in 955 injuries and 429 fatalities since 1968. On September 19, 2004, the FARC killed Luis Eduardo Duque Varon, Antonio Jose Duque Varon, and Alfonso Lopez Nivia, a move supposedly motivated by the victims' involvement with the Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC).

There are evidences that the FARC has liaisons with Latin-American criminals, as for example the Brazilian drug-dealer Fernandinho Beira-Mar arrested by Colombian army in Colombia near the border of Venezuela, Brazil and Colombia. Beira-Mar confessed his liaisons with the guerrilla to authorities. According to the COBRA (alias for Colombia-Brazil) operation report of Brazilian police the FARC maintains drug factories in the Amazon, near the board of Colombia. The manufactered drugs would be dispatched to Colombia, United States and Brazil.

The FARC has advocates among some people and organizations in Latin America. Some of the group's principal sympathizers are located in Venezuela and Brazil. According to them the FARC is victim of a calumny campaign organized by their enemies, mainly the US. FARC Commander Manuel Marulanda Vélez and others are part of the Marxist and revolutionary magazine America Libre. The Brazilian Carlos Alberto Libânio Christo, known as Frei Betto, a celebrity in Brazil PT and a personal friend of Lula, was former director of the magazine. Raul Reyes, a FARC commander, described the liaisons with President Lula in an interview to Folha de São Paulo newspaper in August 24 2003 and said he met Lula for the first time in San Salvador during the Foro de São Paulo. Olivio Dutra, Minister of Cities of Lula, received FARC leaders in 2001 when he was the Rio Grande do Sul governor. In March 20, 2002, in Ribeirão Preto was open a pro-FARC comitee by the Sports Secretary Leopoldo Paulino (PSB) in the government of the mayor Antônio Palocci Filho (PT). Presently Palocci is the Economy Minister of Lula government. Also the FARC is a member of the Foro de São Paulo since 1990, organization guided by PT and Lula. Brazilian president Luis Inacio Lula da Silva don't recognize the FARC as a terrorist movement and say they don't have any illegal relationship with the organization. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez already admitted he encontered FARC leaders between 1998-2002. According to him the meetings were a request of Colombian President Andrés Pastrana who wanted to negotiate with the rebels. Venezuelan president has been repeatedly accused covering FARC. The Colombian Senator Enrique Gómez, member of the outer subjects commission of the Congress said in a interview to the Colombian Caracol Radio: "a conspiracy between the FARC and President Chávez has always existed" (audio). Colombian Senador Jimmy Chamorro has the same opinion:"there is no doubt about the narrow relation of Chávez and the FARC, and thus it is demonstrated with the case of the guerrilla Rodrigo Granda" (audio). The US newspaper Washington Post also accused Chavez of giving protection and suport to the FARC rebels. The Venezuelan union leader of CTV (Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela - Confederations of Workers of Venezuela) who lives in Costa Rica(he requested political asylum) Carlos Ortega said about Chavez in 2004:"In Venezuela Chavez doesn't rule, who rules is Fidel Castro, the narc-guerilla mainly the FARC; in Venezuela who governs is the international terrorism." The Venezuelan deputy for the opposition Julio Montoya said that more than 500 members of FARC have become Venezuelan citizens irregularly and that they have Venezuelan identities. Chavez denies the allegations about his government covering the FARC guerrilla.

Since the arrest of Granda, Chavez is protesting and accusing Colombian authorities of entering illegally in Venezuela and kidnap. Chavez said in a interview to the journalist Eleazar Diaz Rangel (newspaper Últimas Noticias) that he has proofs that Rodrigo Granda, FARC counselor, was captured illegally in Caracas and moved to Cúcuta, where the Colombian authorities said the arrestment was done (audio). According to him the Colombian authorities are lying when they said they arrested Granda inside Colombia (audio). The Vice-President of Venezuela protested against the Granda arrestment and said that if Colombia authorities wanted Granda, they should have requested his extradition by legall ways (audio).

According to the Colombian Minister of Defense, Jorge Alberto Uribe, the Colombian government paid a reward for the capture of Roberto Granda. Venezuelans detained Granda inside Venezuela borders because of a reward offered for his capture and they moved Granda to the region near the border of Venezuela, inside Colombian territory, where Colombian officers finally arrested him. Venezuelan deputy Luis Tascón said that the reward was of US $1.5 million. The Colombian government did not reveal the amount of the reward.

Because of the Granda case the President Hugo Chavez said that the Venezuelan ambassador should leave Bogotá in Colombia and that the trade agreements between Venezuela and Colombia should be paralised. Chavez demmands that the Colombian President Alvaro Uribe do a public international retraction excusing for the invasion of the Venezuelan territory and the kidnapping of Granda.

Uribe proposed the creation of a special comissition, so the severe crisis can be resolved. He emphasize Colombia did not invaded the Venezuelan territory. The US governemnt supports Colombia in this crisis and demmands Chavez to give a clear declaration about his position related to the FARC.

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