Venezuela President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday his country won’t offer any help or explanations to clear up the allegations levied by a Spanish judge that his administration collaborated with Colombia’s largest guerrilla group FARC and Basque separatist group ETA.
Chavez, speaking during an hour-long nationwide broadcast, said his government doesn’t have “anything to explain” to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The comments were a direct response to Zapatero, who said earlier this week that he had asked Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos to “request an explanation from the Venezuelan government” regarding the allegations.
Chavez’s response comes after a Spanish judge on Monday alleged that the Venezuelan government worked together with two terrorist organizations – ETA and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC – in a plot to assassinate Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.
The Venezuelan leader said his government had never collaborated with ETA or FARC and Zapatero “should investigate the judicial branch” in Spain.
Chavez said he spoke with Moratinos after the allegations were made public on Monday, but that the Spanish foreign minister never requested that Venezuela address the accusations.
Moratinos said on March 2 that Chavez and Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, had committed themselves to work with Spain and investigate the accusations.
“I don’t have to explain anything to Zapatero or anyone,” Chavez said.
The Venezuelan leader said his government didn’t want to damage diplomatic relations with Spain, but that he demanded respect from the Spanish government.
The diplomatic spat is the result of an indictment by Spanish National Court Judge Eloy Velasco that ordered alleged members of ETA and FARC to stand trial on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and terrorism.
The indictment also alleged that Caracas collaborated in a plot to assassinate Colombia’s Uribe, who has had several diplomatic confrontations with Chavez.
Among the ETA members charged is Arturo Cubillas Fontan, who has been living in Venezuela since 1989. Cubillas Fontan was hired by Venezuela’s Agriculture Ministry in 2005 and also allegedly led ETA’s activities in Latin America since 1999, acting as a link with FARC, according to the indictment.
Venezuelan news reports have indicated that he’s married to Goizeder Odriozola, a Venezuelan national of Basque descent. Odriozola is an aide of Elias Jaua, one of Chavez’s most hard-line allies, who serves as agriculture minister and vice president.
Calls to Odriozola’s cellphone and to the Agriculture Ministry’s press office for comment weren’t returned.
The indictment says Cubillas Fontan’s alleged contacts with FARC included “military training for ETA members in the Colombian jungle, in exchange for ETA’s help in Spain, localizing terrorist targets sought by FARC.”
Venezuela’s government, in a statement earlier this week, said Cubillas Fontan had been living in Venezuela under a deal struck by then-Venezuelan leader Carlos Andres Perez and former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez. (Dow Jones)