AP. 1 February 2002. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Denies Supporting Colombian Guerrillas.
CARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez insisted Friday his government isn't supporting leftist Colombian guerrillas. "It's a big lie," Chavez said, responding to speculation that Venezuela's army has collaborated with Colombia's largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. That speculation resurfaced in local news media after Colombian authorities on Thursday intercepted a private Venezuelan airplane carrying a stockpile of arms and ammunition used by the guerrilla group, known as the FARC. Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has denied allegations that his government was secretly supporting Marxist guerrillas in Colombia's civil war, where leftist rebels are fighting government forces and rightist paramilitaries. "There are people who have endeavored, looking for anything, to convince others that Hugo Chavez is supporting Colombian guerrillas. ... It's a lie. We support peace," Chavez said. Chavez said he trusted that Colombian President Andres Pastrana "would not suspect" Venezuela of aiding rebel groups. Colombia's ambassador to Venezuela, German Bula, said Colombia needed to study the video. But he said relations between Colombia and Venezuela have improved over the past year. With Colombia's endorsement, Venezuela has acted as a mediator in efforts to end Colombia's 38-year-old civil war. Foreign Minister Luis Alfonzo Davila met with Bula and said Friday there would be no official comment about the video until "an evaluation" was complete. Davila said the airplane captured in Colombia had taken off from Tachira state in western Venezuela. The pilot, Julio Pena, and the plane's owner are Venezuelan nationals, he said. Pena is in Colombian custody. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Barry Stoller http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ProletarianNews