Spanish Police Will Interrogate FARC Members

By Dialogo
October 08, 2010

A Spanish court has ordered members of the police to travel to Colombia to interrogate nine former members of the FARC guerrilla group, to whom they want to show recent photos of members of the armed separatist group ETA to see whether they can identify them, court sources said Wednesday.

Spanish National High Court Judge Eloy Velasco ordered the trip to Colombia on 21 September, although the news only became public on Wednesday.

Former guerrillas from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) included in the Colombian government’s rehabilitation plan have identified several ETA members in the past, judicial sources specified.

The Colombian government announced its decision to collaborate with the Spanish courts and even said that it will share any information found on the computers of the FARC’s top military commander, Víctor Julio Suárez, alias El Mono Jojoy, who died in a jungle bombardment two weeks ago.

“Whatever can help to do justice in this area, we’re more than willing, and that’s what we’ll do,” Colombian Foreign Minister María Angela Holguín said in Bogotá.

The instructing magistrate investigating the alleged relationship between the two armed groups, in which relationship he says the Venezuelan government has cooperated, has requested his fellow High Court judge Ismael Moreno to send him the testimony given by two alleged members of the Basque separatist group ETA.

The ETA members, according to a document made public this week, acknowledged receiving training in Venezuela.

As part of the same judicial proceedings, Judge Velasco will take statements on 15 November from two former Venezuelan public prosecutors who have information on ETA’s activity in the Caribbean country, at the request of the private prosecution brought by the Association of Victims of Terrorism and the Democratic Platform of Venezuelans in Spain, the sources said.

Need for Investigation
The open investigations being pursued by the National High Court into the FARC and ETA and possible Venezuelan connivance have caused tension in relations between Spain and Hugo Chávez’s administration on two occasions in recent months.

The controversy reemerged on Monday when a ruling by Judge Moreno, in which he ordered Juan Carlos Besance y Xabier Atristain held on charges of illegal possession of arms and explosives and membership in a terrorist organization, cited previous investigations and statements supporting the claim that the two were trained in Venezuelan territory after having received courses in France.

On Wednesday, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero dismissed the possibility that the government of Venezuela or of any other country was cooperating with ETA, but he affirmed that the statements by the alleged ETA members need to be investigated, for which he requested the Caribbean country’s collaboration.

“Of course, in the government’s view, the statements (…) by the alleged ETA members provide sufficient evidence to require an investigation and a response from the Venezuelan government,” Zapatero said during an interview with Tele 5.

“We are convinced that no government in the world, of course, is giving shelter to what is a terrorist gang (…), the issue is that no terrorist should feel more or less free, more or less secure in any country, and this demands on our part cooperation with all governments, also of course with the Venezuelan government,” he added.

In March Judge Velasco indicated in a court document that the Venezuelan government cooperated in facilitating meetings between ETA and the FARC and the exchange of guerrilla-warfare techniques or information related to a possible attack in Spain on high-ranking Colombian officials, such as then-president Alvaro Uribe.

According to the document, in 2007 ETA members were escorted by a member of the Venezuelan military to a jungle location where they received a course in handling explosives from members of the FARC.

Following the judicial ruling, both countries reaffirmed their commitment to the fight against terrorism in a joint statement, in which they declared the controversy over.

Zapatero affirmed that he has raised the subject with President Chávez on several occasions during the last two years.

“I can assure you that if this is going on, it will have limited scope in any event, because ETA’s capabilities are very limited (…), these capabilities will be eradicated in Venezuela,” he affirmed.

ETA and the FARC are on the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations, and the two groups have maintained “coordinated relations” throughout their history for “some of their illicit objectives,” according to the March ruling.