A senior Colombian official said the documents were retrieved from a computer belonging to Raúl Reyes, the FARC leader who was killed March 1 in a Colombian military strike on a rebel hideout in neighboring Ecuador.In one of the e-mails reviewed by The Herald, someone who signs as ”Iván” tells the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia’s main leadership, known as the Secretariat, that the request for military cooperation came from Venezuelan Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín. The e-mails were among a stack of previously undisclosed documents allegedly retrieved from Reyes’ laptops.The senior Colombian official — who requested anonymity as a condition for discussing the documents — identified ”Iván” as Iván Márquez, a member of the FARC’s Secretariat.The authenticity of the documents could not be independently confirmed. Colombian authorities told The Herald the documents survived the bombing at the rebel camp because the computers were protected by metal casings. The Colombian government has asked Interpol to verify the authenticity of the files, and results are expected soon.A request for an interview with Rodríguez Chacín was declined on Wednesday.According to one e-mail exchange reviewed by The Miami Herald, Rodríguez Chacín sought extensive FARC training.”Rodríguez Chacín inquired about the possibility that we share our experience in guerrilla warfare, something that they call assymetric war. They want operational tactics, explosives, bolivarian education, jungle camps, ambushes, logistic, mobility . . . , all of it thinking about an adequate response to a U.S. invasion,” writes ”Iván” in the e-mail, dated Nov. 14, 2007.The Colombian official said the timing of the e-mail matches a meeting between Rodríguez Chacín and FARC rebel Iván Márquez in Caracas. The official pointed to a Nov. 8 meeting between the rebels and the Venezuelan government in the Miraflores Presidential Palace, widely reported in the media.The documents made available by the Colombian government to The Herald go as far back as 2005 and are all internal e-mail communications among guerrilla leaders. There is no incoming mail from any of the Venezuelan officials mentioned in the rebels’ memos.Colombia says that’s because Reyes did not receive correspondence directly from Venezuelan officials, but rather from Márquez and another guerrilla leader, Timoleón ”Timochenko” Jiménez. They served as the rebels’ contacts in Venezuela.In his e-mail, ”Iván” tells the FARC Secretariat that Venezuela is interested in the rebels sharing their experience at “several levels. One with some generals, and another at an intermediate level.“Chávez proposed quarterly contacts . . . in meetings that could take place on the border, in Caracas or in Havana, without ruling out his presence in those meetings.”If verified, the e-mail exchange between Márquez and the FARC’s Secretariat would be a strong indication that Chávez has a tight relationship with the Marxist-inspired guerrilla group that has been fighting to overthrow the Colombian government for the last 40 years and is linked to drug-trafficking.In a Nov. 12 e-mail, rebel writes about a meeting he says was held ”in our bunker in Fort Tiuna.” That is the name of Venezuela’s military headquarters in Caracas.The documents obtained by The Herald also reveal that the rebels may have had contacts with Venezuela about guerrilla warfare training as far back as 2005.In an e-mail dated Apr. 18, 2005, ”Iván” writes to ”Raúl” that somebody he calls ”Tino,” who has a top responsibility for handling the Popular Defense Units — the armed civilian militias that Chávez created to defend his Bolivarian revolution — is interested in getting his troop leaders trained in guerrilla warfare with the rebels.It’s not clear if the alleged request by Rodríguez Chacín two years later was intended for the same armed civilian force.The e-mails also suggest that as far back as 2005, the rebels attempted to win favors from Chávez, a man they characterized as ”a difficult guy” in charge of a country “with important reserves, useful for our purposes.””Iván” and ”Timo” sent Chávez messages through several of his aides and supporters, tailored their rhetoric to appeal to him and pitched the FARC’s ability to help Chávez’s socialist revolution.”We need to captivate a difficult guy, prone to having fits; I suggest we approach our questions positively . . . with a little diplomatic vaseline,” the writer ”Iván” tells ”Raúl” in a March 25, 2005, e-mail in which he suggests sending a letter to Chávez.”I recommend that [in the letter] we bring up the issue of the serious imperialist threat to the revolution,” he adds.On May 17, 2005, ”Raúl” tells ”Timo” that the letter to Chávez had been sent.E-mails previously disclosed by the Colombian government allege that Chávez promised millions of dollars to the FARC around the time that he helped the FARC’s release of five hostages in late 2007 and early 2008.Colombia’s police chief, Gen. Oscar Naranjo, said shortly after the raid on Reyes’ camp that Chávez had promised $300 million to the FARC. He said the information came from the files retrieved from Reyes’ computers and that it was not clear whether it was a ransom payment for the hostages.Venezuela has strongly denied the accusation.Some observers in the United States have expressed doubts about the allegation. A group of 21 analysts and academics released an open letter this week warning of “a gap between Colombia’s exaggerations and what the documents actually say.””The notion that the Venezuelan government provided — or intented to provide — $300 million to the FARC is based exclusively on [one] passage from a letter sent to the FARC Secretariat from Raúl Reyes,” says the letter signed among others by Forrest Hynes, Ph.D. student and teaching assistant at New York University’s Latin American History Department. ‘There is no clear description of what `300′ represents. While the Colombians claim it is a reference to three hundred million dollars, it could just as easily refer to three hundred dollars or even three hundred hostages,” it adds.Documents reviewed by The Miami Herald show at least seven references to the ”300” figure. The e-mails do not specify whether the ”300” means $300 million. In one of the e-mail exchanges the writers in one paragraph mention the ”300” and in the next they ask, “who, where, when and how we receive the dollars?”The Herald also has seen one e-mail dated January 2007 in which a FARC leader named Jorge Briceño, also known as ”Mono Jojoy,” writes to the Secretariat that he proposes to ask Chávez for a loan of $250 million, “to be repaid when we take power.”Later e-mails by other rebel leaders mention ”300,” without specific reference to dollars. Finally, on a Feb. 8 e-mail, the figure 250 appears again.In that communication, ”Iván” and ”Ricardo” — the well-known alias of Rodrigo Granda, a senior FARC member — relay to the Secretariat the results of a meeting with someone they call ”Angel” and say: “He already has the first 50 available, and he has a schedule to complete 200 throughout the year.”The two senior Colombian officials who spoke to The Herald said they believe that ”Angel” is the alias the rebels use for Chávez and that they are referring to the same negotiations when they alternately talk about 300 and 250.Sergio Jaramillo, Colombia’s vice minister of defense, declined to comment on the alleged financial link between Venezuela and the FARC but said the government knows the rebels are strapped for cash. They are actively pursued by the Colombian military, which has been boosted by $6.1 billion since 2000 from the U.S.-financed Plan Colombia.’From what we’ve seen in Reyes’ computers there’s been a very significant reduction in the FARC’s income, probably because they lost control of the cocaine production in southeast Colombia,” he said. “More importantly, we are seeing they have a huge cash-flow problem. They have no capital to spend and to acquire all the equipment they want.”
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