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Colombia probes politicians' FARC links

Latest update : 2008-05-23

Colombian prosecutors have asked the Supreme Court to probe alleged ties between FARC rebels and three lawmakers, including Sen. Piedad Cordoba, a key mediator in talks with the rebels and ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

 

Colombian prosecutors asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to probe three lawmakers, including an ally of Venezuela's president, for suspected rebel ties based on files found on a guerrilla commander's laptops.

 

Attorney General Mario Iguaran said prosecutors also opened an inquiry into two Colombian journalists, a U.S. academic, an Ecuadorean politician and a Venezuelan regional lawmaker for possible links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC.

 

Archives from the computers are fueling diplomatic tensions in the Andean region after Washington ally Colombia charged their contents showed Venezuela and Ecuador provided support to the FARC, Latin America's oldest insurgency.

 

"After an analysis and a police report, there are indications of presumed ties between the FARC and three Colombian lawmakers, five Colombian citizens and four foreigners," Iguaran told a news conference.

 

He said the three Colombian lawmakers included Sen. Piedad Cordoba, who sympathizes with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's left-wing ideas and has tried to broker a deal to free hostages held by the FARC, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt.

 

Chavez and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, both harsh critics of Washington's free-market policies, dismiss the computer documents as part of a U.S.-organized smear campaign to undermine their governments.

 

The computers were found in March after Colombian forces attacked a FARC camp inside Ecuador to kill commander Raul Reyes. The assault triggered a brief regional crisis, with Ecuador and Venezuela sending troops to Colombia's borders.

 

Cordoba could not be reached for comment. She has said her ties to the guerrillas were part of her role, formerly approved by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, in mediating hostage release deals. Last year, she visited Reyes' camp to attempt hostage negotiations.

 

Former presidential candidate Alvaro Leyva, who has openly acted as a mediator between the government and the FARC in the past and worked for a hostage accord, was also named.

 

"All we have done is work for peace and the humanitarian accord," Carlos Lozano, editor of the Communist party-linked newspaper, Voz, told Caracol television after prosecutors listed him in the probe.

 

POLITICAL PARALLELS

 

Violence from Colombia's four-decade conflict has eased as Uribe's U.S.-backed campaign weakened the FARC. Outlawed paramilitaries who once killed in the name of counterinsurgency have mostly disarmed under a peace deal.

 

But Uribe is under pressure over a scandal tying some of his lawmaker allies to paramilitary commanders. More than 60 legislators are under investigation or in jail awaiting trial for suspected collaboration with militia bosses.

 

Thursday's announcement came after Interpol, the international police agency, said files from the three FARC laptops and hardware were authentic and not manipulated. It could not vouch for the veracity of the content.

 

The computer documents have fueled calls by some members of the U.S. Congress for Chavez to face sanctions for aiding a group labeled a terrorist organization by U.S. and European officials. Analysts say that is unlikely as Venezuela supplies a large portion of U.S. oil needs.

Date created : 2008-05-23

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