Lula acts to broker end to stand-off over Farc 'arrest'
By Andy Webb-Vidal in Bogotá | The Financial Times
Published: January 20 2005 00:50 | Last updated: January 20 2005 00:50 | Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the Brazilian president, travelled to the Colombian border on Wednesday to meet the leader of Brazil's neighbour in an effort to broker a resolution to a tense diplomatic stand-off between Colombia and Venezuela.
Since last week the two Andean neighbours have been locked in a bitter dispute triggered by the covert capture in December of a top Colombian insurgent in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.
Colombia insists that Venezuela is harbouring “terrorists” wanted by the Colombian authorities, while Venezuela has withdrawn its ambassador to Bogotá in protest and unilaterally suspended trade links.
The impasse was expected to dominate the previously scheduled bilateral meeting between the Brazilian leader and President Alvaro Uribe in Leticia, a Colombian jungle town bordering Brazil.
Brazil maintains relatively cordial relations with both Bogotá and Caracas, and a peace initiative from there is likely to be considered by Hugo Chávez, Venezuela's president. Caracas has already signalled that it is willing to extend an olive branch.
“We want to overcome this situation, so it ends up as an incident in the past,” Ali Rodriguez, Venezuela's foreign minister, said on Tuesday.
Colombia's government says that Rodrigo Granda, the guerrilla representative, was captured by Venezuelan soldiers and handed over to Colombia after the offer of a reward.
Venezuela claims that Colombia, assisted by the US Central Intelligence Agency, bribed Venezuelan national guards into undertaking an “illegal” kidnapping that violated its sovereignty.
Colombia is accumulating information supporting its claim that the Chávez government is supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a group classified as “terrorist” by the US and Europe.
Interpol circulated documentation last September including to Venezuela's Interpol representative that detailed Mr Granda's Farc history. Venezuela, Bogotá adds, ignored the Interpol request for Mr Granda's arrest, despite his attendance at a government-organised seminar.
According to Mr Granda's diary, excerpts of which were seen by the FT, the top Farc representative kept the telephone numbers of several people in the Chávez government and other Farc members in Venezuela.
It also has the numbers of Evo Morales, the Bolivian coca farmers leader and an international ally of Mr Chávez.
Even if a settlement to the diplomatic dispute is brokered by the Brazilian president, the thorny issue of Venezuela's alleged support for the Farc will remain.
Colombia, Washington's staunchest regional ally in the war on terrorism, said it would present Caracas with details of the location of seven top Farc commanders and several guerrilla camps in Venezuela.
Colombia possesses photographs of Farc settlements in Venezuela taken by US satellites. To be classed by Colombia, and by extension the US, as a supporter of terrorists could give Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, “rogue-state” status.
Condoleeza Rice, the incoming US secretary of state, described Mr Chávez as a “negative force” in the region.
A US consultant in Bogotá said: “I hope someone in Caracas is thinking this through. I don't think Chávez wants his country declared a terrorist haven.”
The Granda incident has caused ructions within the government of Mr Chávez, self-styled champion of the region's wave of radical populism. His position in recent days has been influenced by the competing pull of a range of disparate leftwing and military factions.
While all the factions are loyal to the president, the radicals favour a faster pace of social reform and a more confrontational stance with the US. After the capture of Mr Granda a radical group of Marxist intellectuals who have sought international solidarity for Mr Chávez, as well as for the Farc, pressured Mr Chávez to take an aggressive stance with Mr Uribe.
“This internal struggle is having a big impact on the [structure of] power,” says Alfredo Keller, a Caracas-based political analyst. “Chávez acted to suit the requirement of the left.”
Differences between them and more conservative, mainly military, factions,analysts say, help explain why Mr Chávez took so long to respond to Mr Granda's capture.
Commentary by A. Boyd
It is surprising to see that the reporter from the Financial Times uses quotation marks to refer to the capture of top FARC leader Rodrigo Granda in Caracas. Equally astonishing the following remarks:
"Colombia is accumulating information supporting its claim that the Chávez government is supporting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), a group classified as “terrorist” by the US and Europe".
"...[Granda] kept the telephone numbers of several people in the Chávez government and other FARC members in Venezuela".
"Colombia possesses photographs of FARC settlements in Venezuela taken by US satellites. To be classed by Colombia, and by extension the US, as a supporter of terrorists could give Venezuela, the world's fifth- largest oil exporter, "rogue-state" status. Condoleeza Rice, the incoming US secretary of state, described Mr Chávez as a "negative force" in the region".
"After the capture of Mr Granda a radical group of Marxist intellectuals who have sought international solidarity for Mr Chávez, as well as for the FARC, pressured Mr Chávez to take an aggressive stance with Mr Uribe".
Considering the evidence of Granda's case and the Venezuelan regime absurd reaction; is there any doubt about Hugo Chavez' relationship with terrorism and guerilla movements and by extension drug dealers?
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