Venezuela is harbouring Colombian rebels, says Bogota
Colombia said it had proof Thursday that Venezuela is harbouring five leaders of leftist guerrilla groups. The two groups, the FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN), have fought an armed war against the Colombian government since the 1960s.
AFP - Colombia said Thursday it had evidence five leaders of leftist guerrilla groups were in Venezuela, marking the latest sign of tensions between the South American neighbors.
Both of the leftist groups cited by the office of outgoing President Alvaro Uribe -- the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the smaller National Liberation Army (ELN) -- have been waging an armed campaign against the Colombian government since the mid-1960s.
In a statement, Uribe's office said Colombian defense officials would be providing "evidence of the presence" of four FARC leaders and one ELN chief in Venezuela to Caracas in the coming hours. An foreign ministry official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the evidence would not be made public.
The FARC leaders were said to include Ivan Marquez, member of the group's political bureau, and Rodrigo Granda, considered the FARC's "foreign minister."
Other top FARC rebels believed to be in Venezuela were identified as Timoleon Jimenez, or "Timochenko," and German Briceno, or "Grannobles," the brother of the FARC's military leader.
The statement also pointed to presumed ELN leader Carlos Marin Guarin, known as "Pablito," and said "other members of the ELN terrorist group" were also likely in Venezuela.
It came just weeks before Uribe, who has had tense relations with his Venezuelan counterpart Hugo Chavez, leaves office. His former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos, who has been somewhat less hostile to Chavez, is due to take up the helm of Colombian power on August 7.
During a visit to Miami, Santos said Colombia and Venezuela must "start talking to resolve the problem we have at hand: the presence of terrorists in Venezuelan territory."
Colombia and Venezuela froze diplomatic ties last year after Bogota and Washington inked a military cooperation agreement Chavez considered a threat to regional security.
In 2007, the firebrand leftist Venezuelan leader received Marquez of the FARC as he negotiated an exchange of prisoners at Bogota's request.