Latest update: 04/03/2010
- ETA - FARC - Hugo Chavez - Spain - Venezuela
Chavez brushes off Spanish accusations of terrorist links
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez dismissed on Wednesday Spanish accusations that his government was involved in plots by Colombian and Basque guerrillas to assassinate the Colombian president, saying he had "nothing to explain."
By News Wires (text)
REUTERS - President Hugo Chavez on Wednesday denied that Venezuela supports terrorist groups after a Spanish judge alleged links between the Venezuelan government and ETA and FARC rebels.
Spanish President Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero asked Venezuela to explain itself after Spain's high court on Monday said Venezuelan soldiers and an alleged ETA member working for the Caracas government facilitated a meeting between the Basque separatists and Colombia's FARC rebels, both considered terrorist groups by Europe.
"This is a government that does not and will not support terrorist groups, we are of peace, of friendship," Chavez said during a televised speech.
"Zapatero, I have nothing to explain, friend, nothing. If you want explanations, then ask that irresponsible judge in your country," Chavez said.
In his 11-year rule of the South American oil-exporter, Chavez has been dogged by accusations from foes of supporting groups like the FARC or Lebanon's Hezbollah.
Chavez, who leads a left-wing bloc aimed at countering U.S. influence within the region, typically laughs off such claims as part of a Washingon-led strategy to discredit him.
Spain's High Court Judge Eloy Velasco said the meetings, including one in 2007, led to the FARC asking ETA for logistical help in case it tried to assassinate Colombian officials visiting Spain, including President Alvaro Uribe.
Velasco issued arrest warrants for 13 FARC and ETA suspects, including one Spanish-born employee of the Venezuelan government.
Velasco's accusations are based on information gleaned from a laptop obtained by the Colombian government after a bombing raid on a guerrilla camp in Ecuador in 2008 that killed the FARC's No. 2 commander Raul Reyes.
Venezuela says the information on the laptops was tampered with by the Colombians.
"We are victims of an intense orchestrated international attack against Venezuela," Chavez said.
The Marxist-inspired FARC has killed thousands of people in a decades-old war to overthrow the Colombian government.
ETA has killed more than 850 people, fighting for independence for the Basque Country.
The FARC is also believed to have had training from suspected members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) on bomb-making techniques.
Chavez said he had spoken by telephone with Spain's foreign minister after the judge's accusations.