Incoming U.S. Ambassador to Colombia Michael McKinley said Thursday that Washington “is concerned about the relation between members of the Venezuelan government and the FARC,” in a written response to a question on the issue from U.S. Senator Richard Lugar.
McKinley said that the U.S. suspected two officials and a former official in Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government of “materially supporting FARC drug trafficking activities.”
The diplomat added that Washington had “decertified” Venezuela in 2006, due to the South American nation’s failure to cooperate in the fight against terrorism, and had banned the sale of arms to the country.
McKinley labelled the FARC a terrorist and drug trafficking organization that has been “significantly depleted” but which “endures and remains dangerous.” He noted that the guerrilla group had “changed tactics” to increase the number of small-scale attacks.
The incoming ambassador said the FARC continue to be “a factor of destabilization for the region and a challenge to the Colombian government.”
McKinley has more than 27 years experience in the U.S Foreign Service. Born in Venezuela, he is currently serving as ambassador to Peru. His nomination as ambassador to Colombia awaits ratification by the U.S. Senate.
Venezuela and Colombia have a history of troubled relations. Caracas criticizes Bogota for allowing Colombia’s civil conflict to spill over into its borders into its neighbor’s territory. Colombia accuses Venezuela of harboring guerrillas.
Venezuela broke diplomatic relations in 2009 after Colombia signed a pact granting the U.S. access to seven military bases around Colombia. However, both Chavez and Colombian President-elect Juan Manuel Santos have expressed a desire to repair severed ties.
Outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe on Wednesday called on neighboring countries to stop allowing Colombian terrorists through their border.