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FARC Computer Files Are Authentic, Interpol Probe Finds

Ronald K. Noble of Interpol said there was no evidence that Colombian authorities had altered data from computers found in a March 1 raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador.
Ronald K. Noble of Interpol said there was no evidence that Colombian authorities had altered data from computers found in a March 1 raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador. (By Fernando Vergara -- Associated Press)
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A 2001 cable from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota said Colombia had decided that "holding Chavez close is better than keeping him at arm's length," but noted that the government was still concerned about "Chávez's real intentions and activities, especially vis-a-vis the guerrillas."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a conservative allied with anti-Chávez activists in Miami, said in a statement that international bodies such as the Organization of American States need to condemn Venezuela. "Evidence gleaned from the computers exposes the extent of Chávez's links to the FARC," she said, "including a promise to provide the rebels with money and guns and learn from their experience in guerrilla warfare."

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the "highly disturbing" allegations have "deep implications for the people of the region."

After Colombian forces bombed a rebel camp just inside Ecuador on March 1, killing 24 guerrillas and sparking a bitter dispute with Ecuador and Venezuela, Colombian authorities disclosed that commandos sent into the camp recovered three laptop computers, two external hard drives and three USB memory sticks.

An initial analysis of 37,872 written documents and 7,989 e-mail addresses turned up correspondence among rebel commanders in which they discussed conversations with officials including Interior Minister Ramón Rodríguez Chacín and Gen. Hugo Carvajal, the military intelligence chief. Some messages are from the FARC's commander, Manuel Marulanda, directly to Chávez.

Interpol said the amount of documentation recovered from the FARC camp was enormous.

The computer data totaled 610 gigabytes, including 210,888 images, 22,481 Web sites, hundreds of spreadsheets and thousands of video files. Noble also said his computer experts had decrypted 983 other files, which were turned over to Colombian investigators.

In an interview earlier this week, Colombian Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos said the information could be used to paint a picture of the FARC going back decades. "The photos show the history of the FARC, some of them very old, from the early times when they first began," said Santos of the group, founded in 1964.

Noble told reporters that he tried to set up meetings with representatives of Chávez and Correa to discuss the documents and get the cooperation of the two governments, but there was no response.


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