Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Monday admitted he met with slain FARC commander Raul Reyes, before the guerrilla group’s “foreign minister’s” death. The socialist leader had previously denied the meeting took place.
Chavez told press about his encounter with Reyes after meeting Belarussian Alexander Lukashenko.
“I once received ‘Raul Reyes,’ in private and in secret in [presidential residency] the Casona. We talked one morning because [former president of Colombia] Andres Pastrana asked me to,” Chavez told press following questions about his alleged ties to the Colombian FARC and Spanish ETA.
The Venezuelan head of state did not say when the meeting had taken place.
Colombia’s former peace commissioner Camilio Gomez, who was responsible for peace talks with the FARC during the Pastrana administration, denied the Colombian government had authorized Chavez to meet with the FARC’s then-number two.
“He is wrong on this. On the contrary, on more than one occasion, President Chavez suggested and requested that we help with meetings in the zone where negotiations were taking place,” said Gomez. “If it happened, it was a clandestine meeting,” the former official added.
Chavez’s administration and security forces are accused by domestic opponents, a Spanish judge and Colombian authorities of having ties to Colombia’s guerrillas.