U.S. embassy officials in Honduras suspected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez of using Venezuelan oil supplies to pressure now-ousted President Manuel Zelaya to explicitly say Colombian guerrilla organization FARC is not a terrorist group, according to a cable released by WikiLeaks.
In a diplomatic cable sent to Washington in January 2008, the Tegucigalpa embassy said that according to sources within the Honduran Foreign Ministry, Chavez “asked Honduran President Zelaya to either remove the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) from any terrorist lists or publicly acknowledge it as not being a terrorist organization.”
“Although flat out denied by MFA sources, we still suspect that Chavez asked Zelaya to make a pronouncement in support of the FARC in return for his concessional Petrocaribe deal,” the cable said.
According to sources within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), during
his January 16 visit to Honduras (ref a) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
asked President Manuel Zelaya to either remove the FARC from any terrorist
lists or publicly acknowledge it as not being a terrorist organization.
We understood from our contacts that Zelaya was asking the Ministries of
Defense, Security and Foreign Affairs to give him their opinions on this
issue before he made a final decision.
The issue then went public before any internal discussions could apparently
be held. In an article in the conservative El Heraldo on January 28, the
headline read "The FARC is not on any Honduran Terrorist Lists." In the
article, Vice Foreign Minister Enrique Reina is quoted as saying the GOH has
condemned all terrorist attacks, but that in the case of Colombia, they
regard the FARC as an internal matter that the Colombians need to resolve.
He added that the GOH approaches the matter multilaterally and regionally,
through the joint security policy of the System for Central American
Integration (SICA). The article was followed by an "urgent" diplomatic note
sent to Embassy in which these points were reiterated. The MFA Director of
External Affairs, Eduardo Rosales Ramirez, denied that these pronouncements
were made in response to a request by Chavez, and confirmed that the MFA
does not have its own list of terrorist organizations, but bases its actions
on both the UN and USG lists. Rosales also accused El Heraldo (which is
owned by Jorge Canahuati, who is most closely aligned with the Nationalist
party) of maliciously creating a story to damage the Zelaya administration.
Honduras was an ally of Venezuela in criticising U.S. foreign policy in Latin America until Zelaya was ousted by the military in 2009.
Chavez has frequently voiced his support of defining the FARC as a belligerent group instead of a terrorist organization.