Two ETA Members Were Trained in Venezuela in 2008

By Dialogo
October 06, 2010

Two alleged members of the Basque separatist group ETA detained last week in Spain received training in Venezuela in July and August 2008, according to court papers that became public Monday.

In the documents, Spanish judge Ismael Moreno ordered them held on charges of illegal possession of arms and explosives and membership in a terrorist organization.

Although neither Juan Carlos Besance nor Xabier Atristain chose to make a statement before the magistrate Monday, the ruling by the National High Court indicated, citing previous investigations and testimony, that the two were trained in Venezuelan territory in the summer of 2008, after having received training courses in France.

According to the document, the two made contact in Venezuela with two individuals identified as Arturo Cubillas and José Lorenzo Ayestaran, who were the ones who gave the courses.

“The two members of this command were undergoing training in Venezuela in 2008, under the direction of two alleged ETA members detained in France in 2009 and 2010,” Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba said after the court documents became public.

ETA’s alleged ties to Venezuela already led to diplomatic friction between Madrid and Caracas in March, when National High Court judge Eloy Velasco accused Hugo Chávez’s Venezuelan administration in a court document of cooperating toward collaboration between ETA and the Colombian FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) in Venezuelan territory.

In 2007, members of ETA 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, according to the document.

The FARC, like Euskadi Ta Askatasuna, 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,” the document added.

Besance and Atristain, believed to be members of ETA’s “Imanol” command, were detained Wednesday in an operation in which a hundred kilos of explosive material were also found.

The detentions took place weeks after ETA announced its decision to cease carrying out attacks, an announcement met with skepticism by the authorities.

ETA, which has suffered severe police harassment in recent years with the arrest of numerous leaders, has broken several truces in the past and has a record of more than 850 deaths laid to its charge.