Colombia said Tuesday that it wants to speak directly to Venezuela about a Spanish judge’s allegations that the socialist nation collaborates with Colombian guerrilla organization FARC.
Colombian Foreign Minister Jaime Bermudez said that the Colombian government wants to speak directly with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez about the allegations.
However Bermudez stressed that Colombia is happy to leave negotiations over such a meeting up to the mediator group of “friend countries” headed by Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez.
Fernandez will visit both Colombia and Venezuela in the next few days to begin the process of repairing severed diplomatic ties between the neighboring Andean nations.
Spanish judge Eloy Velasco Monday provided evidence, in a 26 page indictment, that a suspected member of Basque separatist group ETA, Arturo Cubillas Fontan, has served numerous high-level roles within the Venezuelan government of President Hugo Chavez, and acted as a link between the ETA, the FARC, and Venezuela.
Venezuela denied the Spanish judge’s accusations Monday, calling them “part of a campaign to discredit Venezuela.”
However, Chavez signaled Tuesday that he will investigate the validity of the allegations.
“It must be taken into account that this is an investigation from a third country, of an independent institution – the Spanish justice system. The Spanish government has requested an explanation from the Venezuelan government and we look forward to that. Our embassy [in Spain] has asked if it is possible to have the information on the case, in order to study it in detail,” Bermudez said.
The opposition party in Spain has called for Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to break diplomatic relations with Venezuela if the accusations are proved to be true.
Spanish Minister for Justice Francisco Caamaño stressed Tuesday that his government will “implement all the mechanisms of international judicial cooperation possible” that Judge Velasco needs to investigate his allegation of a relationship between ETA, the FARC and the Venezuelan government.
Caamaño added that Spain had contacted Venezuela directly about the allegations as soon as they were made.
Colombian Defense Minister Gabriel Silva said Tuesday that he was “not surprised that a terrorist group like the FARC unites with other terrorists, that’s what they’ve always tried to do. They have friends all over the world.”
Silva’s comments follow a public scolding from Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, who asked Silva to refrain from making statements on foreign policy without first consulting him.
Chavez announced last week that he wanted to normalize relations with Colombia, following a shouting match with Uribe at a summit in Mexico.
However, these latest accusation of Venezuela-FARC ties, combined with a history of strained relations between Venezuela and presidential front-runner candidate Juan Manuel Santos, means the future of diplomatic relations between the two nations is uncertain.
It is hoped that the peace-maker group of “friend countries”, formed following Uribe and Chavez’s confrontation in Mexico, will be successful in mediating the restoration of diplomatic relations between the feuding nations.
Diplomatic relations between Colombia and Venezuela were frozen after Colombia signed an agreement last year with the U.S. that allows the Americans to use Colombian military bases and civilian airports for counternarcotics and counterterrorism missions.
Chavez believes the agreement undermines sovereignty in the region, and is its most outspoken opponent.
The border region has long been a source of tension between the countries, as Venezuela accuses Colombia of allowing right-wing paramilitary fighters to enter Venezuelan territory, while Colombia says the border is often crossed by left-wing guerrillas seeking refuge in the neighboring country.