Skip to comments.FARC: Rebel-camp allegations fuel tension in Venezuela
Posted on 04/05/2002 5:07:03 AM PST by Cincinatus' Wife
BOGOTA - (AP) -- A Colombian paramilitary group on Thursday offered directions to suspected rebel camps inside Venezuela that the government denies exist, fueling a brewing dispute between the two countries.
In a letter posted on the web page of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, the illegal group claimed to have rebel deserters who are willing to lead officials to the camps. The letter, signed by AUC leaders Carlos Castaño and Salvatore Mancuso, said rebels spent this week dismantling the camps.
The dispute has brought up old concerns in Colombia that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is sympathetic to Colombia's leftist rebels, a charge he vehemently denies.
The current dispute began last month when Gen. Martín Carreño said rebels from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had camps inside Venezuelan territory and had attacked his forces from the other side of the border. The March 20 battle left at least 41 soldiers and rebels dead.
Carreño reiterated his claims Thursday in an interview with Caracol Radio.
''I walked in the zone. I saw the proof,'' he said.
On Wednesday, acting Colombian foreign minister Clemencia Forero said the Colombian government had ''serious indications'' that the camps existed though she declined to reveal the evidence publicly.
She asked that the dispute be taken to the Commission to Verify Border Incident.
In a news conference Thursday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Dávila said Venezuela would consider Colombia's proposal.
But he reiterated that Colombia should improve security on its side of the border and said ``Venezuela is a receptor of violence in Colombia and we cannot be held responsible for violence that is not generated in Venezuelan territory.''
He's on our side, and he's been against the drug traffickers. This guy helped us take down Pablo Escobar. We should be treating him much better than we have been.
US to Broaden Colombian Aid**** At a later news conference, Hutchinson declined to comment on whether an operation was afoot to capture the rebel, Tomas Medina, of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. U.S. prosecutors say his unit, based in jungles near the Brazilian border, conspired with Brazilian traffickers to ship cocaine to the United States. Hutchinson said Colombia's main paramilitary leader, Carlos Castano of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC, is also under U.S. investigation for drug trafficking. The DEA has cited Castano before as a drug trafficker, but he has not been indicted in the United States.
Whether Castano - and other guerrilla leaders beside Medina - are indicted will depend on how much evidence U.S. authorities can collect, Hutchinson said. Hutchinson was also asked about a message posted on the Internet Tuesday by Castano, in which the paramilitary leaders says he has been trying to help dozens of Colombian drug traffickers turn themselves over to U.S. justice - apparently in plea deals. "We do not negotiate with narco-traffickers unless they simply want to know how to surrender," the DEA chief said.
The neocons spent years bashing klintoon over Mena, he was just a secondary player
Castaño is a backer of Plan Colombia in which the U.S. is funding a $1.3 billion drug-eradication program even though most of the AUC's funds come from shaking down drug traffickers. "I prefer taking cash from the narcos than from honest people," says Castaño, who explains that his group, like the rebels, collects a "tax" on coca paste and on the drug's transportation in AUC-controlled areas. Castaño has given orders not to shoot at the government crop-spraying aircraft when they swoop over coca fields in his areas.
And though Castaño once worked for the drug dealers as an enforcer, he says he's eager to see the end of Colombia's drug economy. "I know it's strange for me to say, but narcotics is a worse problem than the guerrillas. When guerrillas fought for social ideals, we all liked them, but when they got involved with the narcos, they lost their bearings, their popularity. They hit the middle class, the small farmers, and that's why we rose up."
This guy's made his mistakes, but he's trying to make up for them. Quite frankly, there are worse folks than him to deal with, and he's helping contain FARC.
Let him come out and give more details to hasten the demise of FARC. But who knows, he may be doing that now. I know sometimes things are reported one way in the news because they spin and sometimes things are reported because that's what they've been fed. The information is far from complete. It will be interesting to see what comes out in the wash.
A lot of this does not make sense. Castano is NOT acting as a drug lord or trafficker would be acting. Several of these items are quite contra-indicitive of drug trafficking, particularly his statements and actions.
Given the clear threat FARC poses, we should ally with Castano for the present.
Carlos Castano looks like he's a good guy.