MURCIA, Spain – A judicial writ may indicate a crime has been committed.
A judicial writ does not purport to be, in principle, an accusation or a direct condemnation of a crime.
But it’s enough to strain the diplomatic relations between Venezuela, Spain and Colombia, especially when it links Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s administration with possible assassination attempts on Colombian officials by terrorist groups on Spanish soil.
On March 1, judge Eloy Velasco of Spain’s national court accused Chávez’s administration of facilitating communication with the Basque terrorist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In the writ, which was submitted March 1, Velasco alleges several members of ETA gave a course on explosives in August 2007 at a FARC camp on a ranch near Guasdualito in the Venezuelan state of Apure.
The course was given to 13 FARC members and seven from the Fuerzas de Liberación Bolivariana (FLB, Bolivarian Liberation Forces), a Venezuelan guerrilla group, according to the writ.
Velasco emphasizes that the members of ETA travelled from Maracaibo in the company of a person dressed in a vest donning the Venezuelan military intelligence service’s (DIM, Dirección de Inteligencia Militar) insignia and was escorted by the Venezuelan military.
“International law does not allow support of terrorist organizations or the development of their activities in any democratic country,” said Cesáreo Gutiérrez Espada, a professor of public international law and international relations at Spain’s University of Murcia. “But the worst thing is that, in the judge’s view, there are indications the Venezuelan government knew the course was being held in its country.”
Spain demanded an explanation from Chávez’s administration for its alleged “cooperation” and some have even asked José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain’s prime minister, to “cease diplomatic relations” if the explanation is not acceptable.
Initially, Hugo Chávez only denounced the accusation because he claimed it was part of a conspiracy against his country, saying “the colonial era is over,” alluding to Velasco’s intentions.
But on a TV appearance on March 3, Chávez said the Spanish national court was acting “irresponsibly” and accused it of being part of a plot against Venezuela and the “Bolivarian revolution.”
Chávez claims the allegations are rooted in evidence that came from information downloaded from computers allegedly belonging to Raúl Reyes, the FARC’s second-in-command who died two years ago when the Colombia military raided one of the group’s camps in Ecuador. Chávez said the computer – and the information obtained – was created by the Colombian government to cast him in a negative light.
“It is a rash accusation, without any proof,” Chávez said. “Don’t be surprised if the Spanish judge issues an order to capture me. [This is a] show they’re putting together to link [me] with ETA and the FARC.”
Gutiérrez Espada, however, vouches for the information’s authenticity.
“Colombia gave Interpol the computers that were confiscated to verify that they were untouched,” he said. “It seems they did not find any indication that files were created, modified or erased in any of them.”
Spanish diplomatic sources refused to comment when asked to react to Chávez’s theories, saying only their government has a “deep respect for the judicial institutions and that there are some indications that this collaboration does exist.”
The Venezuelan government’s contact is Arturo Cubillas Fontán, an alleged ETA member who is wanted for three murders in Spain and “has held or holds political office” in Venezuela, according to the writ.
Since 2005 Cubillas has been the appointed director in one of the offices under the Venezuelan ministry of agriculture and lands, according to the writ. But the writ also claims he’s been the head of the ETA in the region and has been coordinating FARC activities since 1999.
Velasco states the ETA and FARC initiated official relations in 1999 – the year Chávez began his presidential term – and have strengthened their relationship by teaching each other how to use more powerful weapons.
The ETA has gone so far as to help those in Spain with assassination plots against Colombian President Álvaro Uribe, his predecessor, Andrés Pastrana, and other Colombian government officials.