Tuesday, March 30, 2010

ETA, The FARC And Venezuela

There has been significant coverage both inside and outside of Spain of the decision by the judge Eloy Velasco to point the finger at Venezuela for allegedly providing ETA with an operational base in that country. Almost as a postscript in his document on supposed collaboration between ETA and the Colombian FARC, Velasco claimed there was evidence of Venezuelan government cooperation with the two groups. The accusation has caused problems between the governments of Spain and Venezuela, with an angry reaction from Hugo Chávez. Within Spain itself it has provoked a predictable chorus from the right along the lines of "this is what you get for maintaining friendly relations with Chávez".

The problem is that Velasco doesn't prove his own accusation. The presence of ETA members or sympathisers in Venezuela is not in doubt, but what many people may not know amidst all the noise is that this presence dates back to the 1980's. Not only that, but it was the result of negotiations between the Spanish government led by Felipe Gonzalez and the Venezuelan administration presided at the time by Carlos Andrés Pérez. Following the failure of negotiations with ETA in Algeria and in an attempt to get known ETA members removed from France, the agreement with Venezuela became the solution. Despite all the recent reports about ETA members living openly in Venezuela under Chávez, the truth is that they did the same with the full knowledge of the Spanish government under previous Venezuelan governments. Some weeks ago I read a report of a former Spanish ambassador in Venezuela recommending a Basque restaurant in Caracas. He said that it was a very good place to eat, despite the fact that the cooks were all Etarras!

The key to the current accusation is a man called Arturo Cubillas, who is one of those who has been in Venezuela since the 1980's. Cubillas currently occupies a relatively minor position in the Venezuelan administration, yet it it is this fact which Velasco has used as a peg for the accusation of Venezuelan government support for ETA activities. We can't yet rule out the possibility that some suitably incriminating "evidence" will surface from the bottomless resources of the laptop computer that allegedly belonged to the FARC leader Raúl Reyes. This amazingly bombproof laptop which survived unscathed when Reyes was killed seems capable of producing documentary proof of whatever Colombia's government would like to demonstrate at any given time.

Also involved in the accusations launched by Velasco is the Spanish citizen Remedios García, who is often cited in reports as being the European representative of the FARC or similar. García was arrested in 2008 following the initial supposed revelations from the miraculously strong laptop, and was deemed to be so terribly dangerous that she was quickly released on bail of €12000. Between then and the new case brought by Velasco we know of no concrete accusations against her. Meanwhile there continues to be a group of Basque exiles linked in some way to ETA living in Venezuela. Some may still be sympathisers of the group, others may not be. We don't know the reality, although it has been reported that the exiles in Latin America were amongst those who took badly the failure of the last peace process as they find themselves trapped in the limbo of exile without any obvious solution.


Lavengro in Spain said...

'it has been reported that the exiles in Latin America were amongst those who took badly the failure of the last peace process as they find themselves trapped in the limbo of exile without any obvious solution.'

Their problem. I couldn't give a flying fart for their situation.

Graeme said...

The point I was trying to make is that many of those seen as being ETA's reserve base in South America may no longer even be active sympathisers of the group.

Lavengro in Spain said...

There is something to be said for the sinner that repenteth, but there's an awful lot more to be said for not murdering people in the first place.