Links between Venezuela government and ETA denied

Chávez denies any links between his government and ETA and FARC

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, has once again denied a decree issued by a Spanish judge linking his government to ETA and FARC (the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Columbia).

When asked by the press about links between his government and ETA he said he would not answer the question because it was ‘so stupid’ and that ‘even those who accused him did not believe it’. He said that members of ETA who had gone to live in Venezuela in 1989 had not taken part in any terrorist activity.

Chávez said that the case opened by the Spanish judge, Eloy Velasco, in which there were signs of cooperation between the Venezuelan government and ETA and FARC is ‘madness’ because ‘there is not one single shred of evidence to sustain the accusation’.

Chávez also said that Velasco should question the president of Spain at that time, Felipe González on why he made the agreement with Carlos Andrés Pérez, the president of Venezuela during that period in which Venezuela accepted a group of people belonging to ETA and who were now Venezuelan citizens married with children and in some cases grandchildren.

In reference to the eleven members of ETA who arrived in Venezuela in 1989 he said that he was ‘sure that they are not participating in any terrorist activity’. However, Chávez added that ‘if the contrary was shown to be true with irrefutable evidence then the situation would change’.

On 1st March this year Velasco opened a case on various presumed members of ETA and FARC accusing them of collaborating in assassination attempts on high ranking Columbian officials living in Spain.

According to Spanish judicial sources Velasco has issued international warrants for the arrests of amongst others Arturo Cubillas Fontan, one of the presumed members of ETA who arrived in Venezuela in 1989.

Since the decree issued by Velasco has been made public Chávez and other members of his government have denounced on more than one occasion what they believe to be a campaign by the Spanish rightwing against them.

The president of Venezuela said that he did not want to damage relations between his country and Spain but stressed that he did not understand how the president of Spain, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, could jeopardise Spain’s relationship with Venezuela by defending the ex president of Spain, José María Aznar. He said that this was ‘automatic solidarity which was a bad thing’.

He also repeated what he had said last week that if relations between the two countries suffered then ‘Spain would have a lot more to lose’. Chávez also accused Aznar of knowing about the coup against his government in 2002 and said that he was a ‘gangster’.

Nevertheless, Chávez said that relations with Madrid would not suffer too badly because however much he is attacked by the press or the Spanish rightwing it would be very different if this disrespect came from Zapatero’s government because this could seriously damage investments that Venezuelan companies had in Spain especially those related to petrol and gas.

Finally, Chávez revealed that he had met Raúl Reyes the now deceased director of FARC in 2000 as requested by the president of Columbia at that time but that this meeting was held in secret and kept private.