I’m no fan of Spain’s arrogance in conducting judicial proceedings about matters outside of their sovereignty, but I may have to make an exception this week. A Spanish judge has accused Venezuelan officials of conspiring with terrorists to conduct assassinations of government officials in other countries, including President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. The judge claims that the conspiracy included Hugo Chavez — and that the net actually did touch within Spain’s actual jurisdiction:
A diplomatic row has erupted between Spain and Venezuela after a Spanish judge accused officials in Caracas of plotting with rebel groups to kill Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and other political officials.
Spanish National Court Judge Eloy Velasco charged on Monday that the government of Hugo Chávez had been working as an intermediary between the Basque separatist group ETA and the Colombian guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The groups were allegedly plotting against prominent political figures living in or traveling through Spain. Venezuelan officials have dismissed these allegations as “biased and unfounded.” …
According to Judge Velasco’s 26-page report, however, up to six ETA members traveled to Venezuela to train FARC members how to use C4 explosives in cellphone bombs, reports The Guardian. In at least one instance, members from the Venezuelan military may have been present for the demolitions training. The report also says that ETA members may have traveled through Venezuela en route to FARC training camps in Colombia.
A Venezuelan agriculture ministry official, identified as Arturo Cubillas Fontán, is alleged to be the ETA’s ringleader in Latin America and the link man with FARC.
The Wall Street Journal reported on this earlier in the week:
In detailing Caracas’s alleged role, Mr. Velasco pointed to Mr. Cubillas Fontán, who the judge says led ETA’s activities in Latin America since 1999 and acted as a link with the FARC. It says Mr. Cubillas Fontán was hired by Venezuela’s Agriculture Ministry in 2005.
Mr. Cubillas Fontán’s alleged contacts with the FARC included “military training for ETA members in the Colombian jungle, in exchange for ETA’s help in Spain, locating terrorist targets sought by FARC,” according to the indictment. Those targets included visiting Colombian dignitaries, including Messrs. Pastrana and Uribe and current Vice President Francisco Santos.
The document also says that during a training course on explosives, FARC members were accompanied by “an escort vehicle with Venezuelan soldiers that was arranged and organized” by Mr. Cubillas Fontán and another person.
Not surprisingly, the linkage between Chavez, Fontán, ETA, and FARC came from a laptop captured in a raid on a FARC outpost by Colombian troops in 2008, which killed a top guerilla commander. At the time, Chavez threatened war over the incursion, even though the raid went into Ecuador and not Venezuela. Chavez has since denied all of the evidence Colombia seized regarding Venezuela’s funding of FARC, the Marxist terrorist group that has attempted to overthrow Colombia’s government for decades.
And while a few Spanish judges have developed a taste for arrogance and media spotlights, Eloy Velasco has not been among them:
The indictments also bring fresh attention to Spain’s National Court, whose judges act on their own investigations and are independent from Spain’s executive and legislative branches. Some judges have gained international attention, and criticism, for their handling of global cases involving other governments, including an investigation into allegations of U.S. torture at Guantanamo Bay.
Mr. Velasco, by contrast, has handled mainly local and less controversial terrorism cases, maintaining a low profile domestically and internationally.
No one can argue that Spain will exceed its jurisdiction if at least part of the plotting took place in their country, especially if it involved the Basque separatists that have waged a terrorism campaign for autonomy in the Pyrenees for decades.
Chavez has already strained his ties with Spain. On one occasion, the King of Spain told him in public to shut up. If Chavez has been playing footsie with ETA, then look for Madrid to give a strong diplomatic reaction, something more than the “zip it” Chavez got from Juan Carlos.
Fausta has more links to this story.