The video shows the second-ranking commander of the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia reading the deathbed manifesto of founding
leader Manuel “Sureshot” Marulanda. The manifesto states that FARC made
contributions to Correa’s campaign, but it’s possible that Correa
wasn’t aware of them.
The video, given to The Associated Press by
a government official on condition of anonymity due to political
sensitivity, adds weight to evidence found in a half-dozen electronic
documents recovered at a rebel camp destroyed in a cross-border raid
last year. Correa has accused Colombia of fabricating the documents,
despite an investigation by the global police agency Interpol that
determined they were not altered.
The same rebel manifesto turned
up on a different rebel computer recovered in October. But in the video
it is read aloud by Jorge Briceno, a member of the FARC’s ruling
secretariat and No. 2 commander, which will make it harder to deny.
between Colombia and neighboring Ecuador are deeply frayed, and the
video is sure to complicate relations further. Colombia is outraged
that the FARC, a leftist group on the U.S. State Department’s terror
list, was operating out of Ecuador, allegedly with the support of that
country’s leftist government. The State Department had no comment on
Ecuador broke diplomatic ties after Colombia crossed
into its territory last year to raid the rebel camp. Attempts by the
Organization of American States and the Carter Center to mediate the
dispute have been stymied.
Told of the video Friday, Ecuador’s
security minister, Miguel Carvajal, denied that Correa’s government had
“any relation in the campaign or has any relation with or contributions
from groups such as the FARC, and certainly no type of accord.” Correa
himself has repeatedly denied any ties to FARC.
The video was
found on a computer seized May 30 in the Bogota home of a suspected
FARC operative, and finally decrypted last week. A senior Colombian
prosecutor, anti-terrorism unit chief Hermes Ardila, confirmed that the
video was found on one of three computers seized in the arrest of Adela
Perez, 36 — “the secretariat’s key player in Bogota.”
It shows Briceno reading from a laptop perched on a roughhewn shelf to about 250 somber-looking rebels in a jungle clearing.
first informs the troops of Marulanda’s death and of changes in the
rebel leadership. He reads from a missive from someone present when
Marulanda died on March 26, 2008, at age 78, of an apparent heart
“We awake today with an immense solitude, so very sad. The comrade died yesterday, the 26th, at 18:20 hours,” Briceno reads.
faces of his young audience are grim. They look dumbstruck, distressed.
At one point, Briceno pauses briefly and says, “What was that sound? A
bomb?” He gets a negative reply from off camera.
turns to the sobering letter Marulanda wrote just days before his
death. The letter stresses the strategic importance of “maintaining
good political relations, friendship and confidence with the
governments of Venezuela and Ecuador.”
It is a grave reflection
on devastating blows the FARC has suffered at the hands of the military
in Colombia, which has received more than $4 billion in U.S. aid since
2000. It describes the “trophies of war” Colombia obtained when it
killed the rebels’ foreign minister, Raul Reyes, and 24 other people in
a March 1, 2008 raid on his jungle camp inside Ecuador.
laments that Colombia seized a trove of electronic documents that badly
compromised the rebels and their foreign friends — namely, Correa and
President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.
“The secrets of the FARC have been lost completely,” Briceno reads.
those secrets is “assistance in dollars to Correa’s campaign and
subsequent conversations with his emissaries,” the letter said. It
mentions “some agreements, according to documents in the possession of
all of us, that are very compromising regarding our ties with friends.”
letter does not say whether Correa personally knew of the money, and
does not mention an amount. But it supports four other documents the
Colombian government says it found on Reyes’ laptop that were allegedly
written in late 2006 by FARC leaders discussing rebel payments of at
least $100,000 to Correa’s campaign.
It appears unlikely that the
video could be fake. AP video experts found no signs of tampering.
Also, Briceno is a known FARC leader with whom AP reporters had
frequent contact from 1999-2002, and it is clearly him in the video.
Ecuadorean minister, Carvajal, told the AP that if the video is proven
to be authentic, his government will want to know who the supposed
emissaries are that established ties with the FARC “in the name of the
(Correa) electoral campaign.”
Correa strongly denies receiving
money from the FARC. He has argued that Reyes’ computer equipment could
never have survived bombs that ripped apart his jungle camp.
revelations about ties to FARC, Correa was re-elected in April by a
comfortable margin. Correa this month imposed stiff import tariffs on a
broad range of Colombian goods including autos and beef, which will
seriously affect Bogota’s $500 million in annual exports to Ecuador.
video, separated into 20 files on a Sony Vaio laptop, took more than a
month to decrypt before the code was cracked July 10, said several
government officials who spoke on condition they not be identified due
to the matter’s sensitivity.
The laptop’s owner, Perez, is jailed
on charges of terrorism and criminal conspiracy, as the alleged leader
of an urban cell engaged in extortion and bombings in the capital,
The other two laptops found in her home contained
intelligence on senior government officials, including Colombian
President Alvaro Uribe, national police director Gen. Oscar Naranjo and
Juan Manuel Santos, who as defense minister managed the raid into
Ecuador, the officials added.
An Ecuadorean prosecutor last month
issued an arrest warrant for Santos on murder charges. Interpol
refused, however, to circulate the warrant. Colombia’s government says
it has no intention of handing over Santos.
The Marulanda letter
also was found on a laptop seized in a raid on a rebel camp in Putumayo
state near the Ecuadorian border on Oct. 31, according to Colombian
authorities. The AP obtained a copy of the letter the following month.