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

Foreign Minister Luis Alfonzo Davila met with Bula and said Friday there
would be no official comment about the video until "an evaluation" was

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.

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Barry Stoller

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