AFP. 31 January 2002. Colombia to investigate alleged link between
Venezuela military, FARC.

BOGOTA -- Colombia announced Thursday that it would look into reports of
contacts between Colombia's main leftist rebel force, the FARC, and
neighboring Venezuela's military.

Foreign Minister Guillermo Fernandez de Soto said the government was
investigating "time and place, as well as the context" of the alleged
meetings as well as any "clarifications the Venezuelan government might

A Venezuelan former defense and foreign minister charged Thursday that a
video and documents revealed in Caracas media showed a "close link"
between the Venezuelan government and Colombia's largest rebel force,
the FARC.

In remarks to Radio Caracol, Fernando Ochoa Antich -- a member a group
of retired military staff opposed to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez --
charged the potentially damning video and document "show there is a
close link between the current Venezuelan government and the FARC," the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

"From the domestic (Venezuelan) point of view, it also shows something
sensitive which is that there is a serious split in the Armed Forces of
Venezuela, because as the journalists have pointed out the video came
from within the (Venezuelan) armed forces themselves," Ochoa Antic said.

The controversial document -- published by the Chavez-critical daily El
Universal Wednesday -- was signed by then interior and justice minister
Ramon Rodriguez Chacin on August 10, 1999. Dubbed "Borders Project," it
said the Venezuelan government would provide medicines, oil and support
for asylum and transit to a party identified by the daily as the FARC.

In turn, according to the newspaper, the FARC -- Latin America's
largest, oldest and longest-fighting rebel force, agreed among other
things not to carry out illegal exercises inside Venezuelan territory
and not to train Venezuelans without government permission.

Hours later Wednesday, four opposition journalists released a video
dated July 7, 2000 which purports to show a meeting of Venezuelan
military officials with the commander of the FARC's 33rd Front, Ruben
Zamora, saying it was clear proof of the populist Chavez government's
ties to the FARC.

In Caracas Thursday, local media reported that a man on a motorbike
hurled a small bomb at the entrance of the newspaper "Asi es la
noticia." Its director, Ibeyise Pacheco, was one of the four journalists
who released the video. There were no injuries reported in the blast.

Ochoa Antich was defense minister when Chavez led a failed military coup
in February 1992. Later, Ochoa Antich served as his country's top
diplomat during the second government of Carlos Andres Perez from

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Barry Stoller

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