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FARC laptop offers inside look at rebels

Colombian officials say files reveal longtime links to Hugo Chavez.

Associated Press
Published March 6, 2008


BOGOTA, Colombia - Files in a laptop computer seized from the wreckage of a Colombian rebel camp in Ecuador offer new insights into Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's desire to undermine Colombia's U.S.-allied government.

If authentic, the computer files suggest Chavez has been in league with the rebels for more than a decade.

While Chavez is not one of the correspondents, his sentiments are conveyed in numerous messages exchanged by the rebels.

Venezuela contends the texts are lies and fabrications.

If so, they are expertly done.

Not only do they offer an unprecedented glimpse into the rebels' mind-set, they also reflect deepening rebel contacts with European governments and even representatives of the United States, who have tried to negotiate the release of dozens of hostages.

In Washington, a top U.S. diplomat said American experts would soon examine the computer's hard drive. "This is the first time that we've stumbled across something coming from the FARC drawing such a straight line" between the rebels and Chavez, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon said.

The texts are signed electronically by the most powerful men in the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the hemisphere's oldest and most potent rebel movement.

Those signing the documents include Raul Reyes, the FARC's foreign minister and public face, who was killed when Colombian commandos raided his jungle hideout in Ecuador on Saturday.

Others who signed messages include Manuel Marulanda, the rebels' 77-year-old supreme leader; Jorge Briceno, their much-feared field marshal; and Ivan Marquez, the insurgents' apparent go-between with Chavez. Marquez is believed to live in Venezuela.

Copies of 13 documents were sent to reporters Tuesday by Colombia's national police chief, Gen. Oscar Naranjo. They indicate that Chavez, seeking to raise the FARC's stature and relieve it of its international pariah status, shares the goal of isolating and discrediting Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe. Chavez's ally, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, was similarly engaged with the rebels, the documents indicate.

The latest

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez portrayed himself as a man of peace Wednesday, even as he moved tanks and soldiers to the Colombian border in a growing crisis set off by Colombia's weekend attack on leftist rebels hiding in Ecuadorean territory.

Most of the 9,000 soldiers mobilized by Chavez have reached the frontier. Ecuador said it sent 3,200 soldiers to its border with Colombia on Monday.

Uribe said he would not mobilize troops or allow his nation to be drawn into war with his neighbors.

The Organization of American States on Wednesday approved a resolution drafted jointly by Ecuador and Colombia declaring the attack a violation of Ecuador's sovereignty.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa suggested Colombia's attack was carried out to sabotage efforts by Venezuela and Ecuador to persuade the rebels to release hostages.

[Last modified March 6, 2008, 01:05:46]

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