Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
International

Interpol Backs Colombia's Charge Against Venezuela

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

American lawmakers are also turning their attention to how weapons are getting into the hands of those fighting in a guerrilla war in Colombia. Some politicians in Washington want to isolate Venezuela now that the international police agency, Interpol, is backing charges by Colombia that computers seized from rebels show that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been supplying those Colombian rebels with weapons. NPR's Juan Forero reports from Caracas, Venezuela.

JUAN FORERO: The computer files were seized when the Colombian government raided a rebel camp in March. In recent weeks, Colombian officials have leaked hundreds of pages of e-mails found in those files. The documents, some obtained by NPR, show how Venezuela's populist government offered guerrillas help in obtaining surface-to-air missiles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

Colombian officials say there's no evidence to show the FARC rebel group obtained anti-aircraft weapons, but Colombia believes the FARC has received assault rifles, ammunition and RPGs.

The Venezuelan government has said the files were forged. At a press conference in the Colombian capital, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble announced that the computer files were authentic.

Secretary General RONALD NOBLE (Interpol): (Through translator) No one can ever question whether or not the Colombian government tampered with the seized FARC computers.

FORERO: As his words were translated into Spanish, Noble said a two-month forensic study showed the files had not been modified or forged. The 610 gigabytes of files contain thousands of e-mail correspondence that provides a rare window into the inner workings of a hermetic rebel group. And a major topic among rebel commanders was the increasingly friendly ties with Chavez' government and the aid Chavez was willing to provide.

Venezuela's president denied the accusations and said Interpol could not be impartial.

President HUGO CHAVEZ (President, Venezuela): (Through translator) It's impossible that there's any proof of anything.

FORERO: Chavez also mocked Noble.

Pres. CHAVEZ: (Speaking foreign language).

FORERO: Chavez called him ignoble and an international bum. He also said he was a corrupt cop. The United States has strongly backed Colombia, providing billions in aid to help President Alvaro Uribe's government fight the FARC. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called the disclosures highly disturbing.

Mr. SEAN McCORMACK (Spokesman, United States Department of State): There are serious allegations about Venezuela supplying arms and support to a terrorist organization. Certainly that has deep implications for the people of the region.

FORERO: Colombia says it has more than the computer files to prove Chavez' involvement. Four intelligence officials interviewed in Bogota say Colombian forces have confiscated thousands of rounds of Venezuelan ammunition, as well as arms, in rebel camps. And FARC guerrilla deserters have spoken about the group's ties to Venezuela. One young man who recently deserted said he operated just inside Venezuela's border. He spoke on condition his name not be used.

Unidentified Man (Former FARC Rebel): (Through translator) The one who provides arms to us is the Venezuelan government. It's the biggest supplier of arms the FARC has. Now, the FARC's not buying arms elsewhere. The arms come from Venezuela.

FORERO: He says the weapons include Belgian-designed FAL rifles, the same one Venezuela's military has long used. The disclosures are fueling calls among some Republicans in Washington to apply sanctions against Venezuela. They want Chavez' government listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

Chavez, though, has always denied arming the FARC. He instead says the United States is looking for a pretext to invade his country. Juan Forero, NPR News, Caracas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Explore all national, state and local returns now.