On March 1, Colombian armed forces carried out an attack on a FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces) camp just over the Colombian border, inside Ecuador.
Because the raid took place a mile inside Ecuador, it sparked an immediate furor in the region, with strong protests being voiced not only by Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, but especially from Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, who called Colombian President Alvaro Uribe a “murderer” and a "lapdog of the U.S. Empire." Chávez immediately mobilized thousands of troops, with tanks, to the Colombia-Venezuela border.
Colombian forces killed 17 FARC guerrillas in the fight, including Raúl Reyes, a senior FARC commander. The Colombians seized three laptops belonging to Reyes, finding evidence immediately that Venezuela had given FARC $300 million in funding. All three countries broke off diplomatic relations, recalling ambassadors and closing missions. There followed an extended period of saber rattling from all involved, but further warfare was averted, and gradually, the furor died down, though Colombia has periodically released documents it says were found on the captured laptops.
On Friday, May 9, Colombian officials showed AP reporters more than a dozen additional electronic documents, a small sample of the more than 11,000 papers they claimed were taken from the laptops seized in the March raid. U.S: intelligence experts, who had been given an opportunity to examine the documents prior to their release to the press, confirmed their authenticity.
According to a front page article published Friday in The Wall Street Journal, a senior U.S. official said, "There is complete agreement in the intelligence community that these documents are what they purport to be."
Colombian authorities have also asked Interpol to examine the documents for authenticity, and recently, Costa Rican authorities carried out a raid on a FARC-connected home in that country, seizing over $480,000 in cash. The house targeted in the raid was identified from information found on the Reyes computers, which also indicated that the FARC funds were stashed in the house.
Additional information found in the computers and released on Friday strongly implicates Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in activities in support of the FARC terrorists. According to the WSJ,
These documents indicate Venezuela appears to be making concrete offers to help arm the rebels, possibly with rocket-propelled grenades and ground-to-air missiles. The files suggest that Venezuela offered the FARC the use of one of its ports to receive arms shipments, and that Venezuela raised the prospect of drawing up a joint security plan with the FARC and sought basic training in guerrilla-warfare techniques.
Other confiscated documents released by Colombian authorities include dozens of email exchanges between senior FARC officials which describe weapons, including bazookas and rockets supplied by Venezuela; others include offers for the use of Venezuelan facilities, including the principal port of Maracaibo, as well as medical facilities and “rest and recuperation” camps on the Venezuelan side of the border.
Evidence of Chavez' personal involvement in arming and supporting the Colombian rebels is also present. In one document, a FARC commander declares, "Chávez is studying our documents and has said that just like Fidel has decided to delegate his other responsibilities to concentrate on the Venezuelan situation, he [Chávez] is ready to do the same to dedicate more time to Colombia."
If there ever were doubts about Chávez ambitions of achieving Venezuelan hegemony over the region, with himself in command, these new revelations should dispel them. His attempts to destabilize Colombia, a staunch ally of the U.S., his financial support of Castro's Cuba, now reaching $2 billion per year, and his pouring oil money into the coffers of Bolivia and Ecuador, as well as his courting of Argentina and Brazil, are all aimed at turning as much of Latin America against the U.S. as he can.
Moreover, his efforts are not limited to this hemisphere; he has cultivated the friendship of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, proclaiming during a visit to Tehran last year, "United, we are going to help defeat U.S. imperialism, and that's why…they get worried in Washington when they see the two of us shaking hands."
Latin America has a long history of instability; some of it, admittedly, caused by U.S. activity in the region. Today, Hugo Chávez presents a greater threat to his neighbors than they have ever before faced. Unlike previous Latin American caudillos, Chávez has money to back up his ambitious plans; far more money, now and in the future, than all the rest of his neighbors put together. The sovereign independence of Latin American nations, especially those friendly to the U.S., is more threatened now than it ever has been. If Chávez is not checked, the best that nations like Brazil, Chile, Peru, Argentina, and the tiny, relatively weak nations of Central America can hope for is the same vassal status vis-a-vis Venezuela as is now the fate of Ecuador, Bolivia, and Cuba.
In particular, the U.S. should move immediately to strengthen its ties with Colombia even further, and should support Alvaro Uribe against the depredations of Chávez. This, however, is easier said than done; under pressure from unions and other elements of the party, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic leaders have blocked congressional attempts to forge new trade accords with Colombia; accords which that country desperately needs to ensure its continued independence.
Unless the U.S. acts, and acts quickly, to strengthen our allies in Latin America economically, Chávez will engulf them all.Powered by Sidelines