WASHINGTON – The head of the U.S. Southern Command told senators he sees no evidence that the Venezuelan government has ties with Colombia’s FARC rebels or the Basque terrorist group ETA.
“We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection,” Gen. Douglas Fraser said Thursday during an appearance before a U.S. Senate committee.
“We have continued to watch very closely for any connections between illicit and terrorist organization activity within the region,” the senior officer said. “We are concerned about it. I’m skeptical. I continue to watch for it.”
Fraser was answering a question from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who specifically asked him about a Spanish judge denouncing the Venezuelan government for facilitating contacts between the FARC and ETA to help them plan the assassination of high Colombian government officials visiting Spain, including President Alvaro Uribe.
“We’re happy that at least one U.S. official was honest enough to admit the truth and put to rest any myths about Venezuela’s links to terrorist groups,” the envoy said in a statement. “We’ve long argued that these allegations are nothing more than fiction.”
The general’s statement contradicted comments that the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs made Wednesday at another Senate hearing.
Arturo Valenzuela said that there are indications of Venezuelan cooperation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC.
But Fraser said Thursday that he knew only of “old evidence” of Caracas providing assistance to the FARC.
“I can’t tell you specifically whether that continues or not,” the general told senators.
U.S. government officials have repeatedly pointed to a connivance of the Venezuelan government with the FARC, which authorities in Caracas have forcefully denied.
Spanish Judge Eloy Velasco issued an indictment last week denouncing indications of Venezuela’s suspected ties with ETA and the FARC.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez denied those accusations, and Spanish Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said Friday that Caracas continues to cooperate with Spain in the fight against ETA. EFE