April 11, 2008

Dead Men's Computers Tell Tales

There is a good article in Der Spiegel (English) on Hugo Chavez's relationship with the FARC. It will be interesting to see the long-term consequences of the Raul Reyes assassination on a) Chavez, b) Colombian-Ecuadorian relations, and c) the health of the FARC. It looks, at the moment, as if the Colombian government has the upper hand thanks to a very patient, US-supported counter-insurgency strategy. (Abu Muqawama's ladyfriend is in Colombia at the moment. But not with the FARC.)

Interpol specialists are currently analyzing the recovered data. Some of the information has been encrypted, but most of the files are easily accessible. Reyes felt safe in his camp, less than two kilometers (1.25 miles) from the Colombian border. In roughly two weeks, Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble plans to announce the results of the investigation. But one thing is already clear: the laptops contain a political bombshell. They hold detailed information on FARC's relations outside of Colombia, the group' finances, their smuggling routes and records for cocaine deliveries. There are also details of bomb attacks carried out be the group.

But the most important man exposed by the files on the laptop is Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez -- the same man who threatened his Colombian counterpart Alvaro Uribe with war following the cross-border raid against Reyes. Now it’s clear why: Chavez apparently does more than just sympathize with the guerrillas in his neighboring country -- he also supports them with money and arms.

Reyes’ posthumous electronic correspondence reveals that Chavez had planned a meeting with legendary FARC leader Manual Marulanda, and he wanted to invite Nicaragua’s head of state Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales. Another e-mail refers to a “dossier” of over $300 million for the FARC. The government in the Venezuelan capital Caracas also apparently offered the rebels a share in the country's oil business and promised decommissioned arms from the country’s own army.

Chavez insists that he has never sent the rebels money or arms. After the saber rattling with Colombian leader Uribe, he is portraying himself as a man of peace. But former rebels and intelligence experts confirm the connection with the guerrillas.