President Juan Manuel Santos has clarified his earlier statements regarding the elimination of FARC camps in Venezuela, claiming that the subsequent heat he has received has been based on a misunderstanding, according to a government press release.
Santos was quoted on Spanish television on April 12 as saying that “We are satisfied that the camps that we had previously located are no longer there.”
His words were subsequently widely interpreted and reported as signifying that there were no FARC camps in existence across the Venezuelan border, an interpretation that drew various criticism, not least from former President Alvaro Uribe, as well as a clarification request by the Colombian Senate.
Santos, however, maintained that “exactly my words were: those camps that were there are now not there,” insisting that he never ruled out the existence of FARC members operating inside the territory of Colombia’s neighbor.
“I said it in Europe because it is the reality: those camps were reported in due course before the OAS…[with] coordinates, then through intelligence information we knew that they were gone. That is what I said, nothing more, nothing less,” said the head of state.
Santos continued that although “it is very possible that the guerrillas remain in Venezuela,” it is also significant that improved relations between the two nations are “making them feel very uncomfortable in Venezuela,” adding to Santos’ confidence that any guerrillas who do remain there do not do so “under the umbrella of the Venezuelan government.”
Noting Chavez’s “signs of good will with the apprehension and surrender of guerrillas,” Santos also took the opportunity to signal the importance of a growing collaboration between the two countries over the last eight months.
“For Colombia there has been a net gain, eight months ago we had no dialogue, we had no relations, trade, and we were talking about war,” he said.
Update (Monday, 12:31)
Caracol Radio reported later on Monday that, according to Santos, intelligence agencies are moving forward with work on establishing the location of alias “Ivan Marquez” and alias “Timochenko,” both members of the FARC Secretariat and both of whom are believed to be or have been hiding in Venezuela.
The head of state added that it is possible Timochenko has in fact returned to Colombia, saying, “Hopefully he is in Colombia, we know that one of them was detected two months ago. Last we heard of Timochenko, he was on the Colombian side [of the border].”