In a press meeting held on Thursday, Colombia’s Defense Minister Gabriel Silva revealed the exact geographic location of FARC leader “Ivan Marquez.”
According to the minister, a combination of information gathered from demobilized guerrillas and “technical intelligence” positions the FARC commander at North 10° 40′ 42″ West 72° 32′ 03,” close to the Colombian border city of Villa del Rosario.
Allegedly the camp, in which the government planted hidden cameras, is used to hold meetings between Ivan Marquez and members of the regional leftist group “Coordinadora Continental Bolivariana.”
To arrive at the camp, government informants reportedly travelled several hours out of a Venezuelan city before completing the journey by mule.
These informants were fitted with satellite locators which were then delivered to the Colombian armed forces. The Colombian military are confident that the camp is a permanent installation because it has cement floors, sleeping facilities and a bust of the notorious late FARC leader Manuel Marulanda, alias “Tirofijo.”
A video filmed in June 2010 allegedly shows Ivan Marquez at the site. Silva said there is more audiovisual evidence from previous years, which was obtained in Venezuela. In one of them Ivan Marquez can be heard saying “Maduro,” which according to the Colombian government could be a reference to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro.
The evidence also allegedly depicts the guerilla commander with his two dogs and a box of Cuban cigars, which he is known to smoke.
The Colombian government claims that close to the main camp is another FARC site, where guerrilla leaders “Rodrigo Granda” and “Santrich Jesus” provide recruits with ideological education.
The defense minister said the videos and photos of the camps could not be released because they could endanger the people who obtained them.
The information was made public at the request of outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who said he wanted to ensure the presence of guerrillas in Venezuela would be taken into account in the context of future diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Intelligence gathered on the ELN allegedly indicates that guerrilla leader “Pablito” is hiding out in the Venezuelan state Apure, close to the Colombian frontier.
The director of Colombian security agency DAS Felipe Muñoz also said that there are sources which indicate that some regional Venezuelan authorities are supporting the guerrillas.
Venezuela responded to Colombia’s allegations on Friday, labeling them “a pathetic media show,” El Espectador reports.
The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said that every time the Colombian government has provided information on the location of guerrillas in Venezuela, checks have been carried out, which fail to verify the guerrilla presence.
“The path of lies, aggression and disrespect towards Venezuela, always prevent the regularization of relations between the governments of our two countries. If this situation continues, the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela would evaluate to take very firm and strong political and diplomatic measures,” a Venezuelan government statement reads.
An official press statement from the Colombian government released on Friday said “For six years the Colombian government kept up a patient dialogue with the Venezuelan government, in which, on several occasions it gave information about the location of terrorists in this territory. Everything was unsuccessful with relation to guerrilla leaders. We must think again about going to the international authorities.”
Colombia has made numerous accusations in the past that Venezuela harbors FARC guerrillas within its borders. The Venezuelan government has always vehemently denied the allegations and maintains Venezuela is not a guerrilla safe haven.
Venezuela broke diplomatic relations all together in 2009, after Colombia signed a pact that grants the U.S. military access to seven Colombian army bases. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez views the pact as an attempt to undermine regional sovereignty.
Chavez’s government stated that they would not consider restoring relations while Uribe remained in office.
Colombian President-elect Santos professed himself to be “very pleased” after Chavez expressed willingness to reopen a dialogue with Colombia and attempt to re-establish severed ties.
Prior to Santos’ election on June 20, Chavez was vocal in his contempt for the former defense minister, whom he called “the number one Yankee lapdog of Colombia” and “a real mafioso.”
Before Colombia announced it had proof of guerrilla presence in Venezuela, Chavez had authorized a meeting between his Foreign Minister Maduro and the incoming Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin, as a step towards repairing diplomatic ties.