After Colombian president Alvaro Uribe ordered a raid across the Ecuadorean border to kill a high-ranking rebel leader, both Ecuador and Venezuela rattled sabers, threatened war, and cut off diplomatic relations with Colombia. Almost immediately, both sent their military units in reverse, and Hugo Chavez speedily restored relations. Those moves appear dependent on Uribe keeping the contents of laptops found at the FARC camp quiet, information more dangerous than the 66 pounds of uranium Colombia now claims they recovered:
Venezuela has since restored full diplomatic relations with Colombia, and Ecuador says it intends to. But there’s uneasiness in the capitals of Caracas and Quito about what else may be revealed by the FARC laptops – and how Colombian President Alvaro Uribe intends to use it, analysts say.
“There is a temporary rapprochement but the uneasy relationship will continue” as long the computer files are in play, says Michael Shifter, of Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think tank.
The laptops reportedly detail meetings between FARC leaders and members of Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa’s government – and a possible $20,000 rebel contribution to Mr. Correa’s campaign. Another document, say Colombian officials, indicates Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez planned to make his own contribution to the FARC of $300 million and several hundred used rifles. Based on that information, Mr. Uribe threatened to have Mr. Chávez prosecuted in international courts for sponsoring “genocide.”
After sending troops to the Colombian border, suddenly a week later Chávez called for reconciliation and Correa accepted Colombia’s apology for violating its territory.
Laura Gil, an international relations consultant in Bogotá, says it was the computer files rather than their “vocation for peace,” that led Chávez and Correa to stand down from the conflict.
The Colombian army claims they confiscated 66 pounds of uranium, plots for which they discovered on the laptops seized in the raid. If confirmed, it corroborates the information on those laptops and provides Uribe with leverage over the two nations on his border. At least, that’s the way Chavez and Correa see it, and they have acted quickly to appease the man both excoriated just weeks after calling him an American stooge and fascist warmonger.
What could be on the laptops? We have already heard about the bidirectional financial support between FARC and both Chavez and Correa. Chavez himself may have given an indication by warning that any information linking him to al-Qaeda would be false. “Don’t be alarmed if from that computer they pull a photo of me with [Osama] bin Laden and Manuel Marulanda,” he joked, but that’s a strange statement to make at all. No one until now had associated Chavez with AQ, although certainly he has attempted to ally himself with the Iranian regime that supports radical Islamist terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.
Uribe has declared a moratorium on any further releases on information from the laptops, now that Chavez and Correa have retreated — at least for the moment. He has granted access to Interpol, though, and the international investigative agency will almost certainly forward its findings to the US, especially on issues of terrorism directed towards Western nations. Whatever that might be, it has Chavez sweating.