he almost certainly funds FARC and other leftist paramilitaries in Colombia
And Saddam Hussein “almost certainly” had WMDS in Iraq, right? What bullshit! If you believe this (I assume you are not being deliberately misleading), it could only be because people keep repeating this lie. This. Ends. Now.
There is zero evidence to support the claim that Chavez “funds FARC and other leftist paramilitaries in Colombia”. The claim was made in 2008 by former Colombian President Uribe–an autocrat in his own right, with his own alleged connections to rightwing paramilitaries in his country–after years of tense relations between Colombia and Venezuela (relations which I tried to summarize in this post from a month ago), but never confirmed/verified.
If Chavez is funding FARC (against whom Colombia has been fighting a decades-long (since 1964) civil war), don’t you find it strange that the current Colombian President, Juan Santos, calls Chavez “my new best friend”?
The claim is “almost certainly” not true. Consider Venezuela’s response to a recent FARC attack in Colombia:
[Colombian President Juan Santos] said in a brief televised appearance that [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez told him he had sent two army brigades to the border. “The brigades have clear instructions to try to find these FARC bandits. And if they do they are going to capture them, and if they resist they will use their weapons,” Santos said. “Those are the instructions that President Chavez gave, to fire on them.”
I can think of one legitimate reason why the Venezuelan military might want surveillance drones. (This is pure speculation, I have no idea if the drones are being built for this purpose, I have no idea how they will be used.)
Background: next door to Venezuela, in Colombia, the government’s military has been using “U.S.-supplied surveillance drones for counterterrorism and counter-narcotics operations” since at least 2006 (Wikileaks).
In recent years, Colombia’s decades-long civil war (1964 – present) has been spreading beyond the country’s porous 1375-mile border with Venezuela, into the border regions covered by dense jungles and mountains.
In 2007, Colombia President Uribe asked Chavez to help negotiate the release of several high-profile hostages held by the FARC, but then abruptly ended Chavez’s role after a series of apparent diplomatic breaches. Tensions between the two countries got worse, and Venezuela became reluctant to help Colombia against the rebels.
The 2008 Andean diplomatic crisis began when the Colombian military launched an unauthorized operation into Ecuadorian territory (its other neighbor). Venezuela warned against similar operations inside its borders.
In 2010, Colombia’s new president made nice with Chavez, restored diplomatic ties with Venezuela. The relations between the countries are now very close, as evinced in Venezuela’s response to latest FARC attack in Colombia.
[President Juan Santos (who calls Chavez “my new best friend”)] said in a brief televised appearance that Chavez told him he had sent two army brigades to the border. “The brigades have clear instructions to try to find these FARC bandits. And if they do they are going to capture them, and if they resist they will use their weapons,” Santos said. “Those are the instructions that President Chavez gave, to fire on them.”
So Venezuela is now more inclined than ever before to help Colombia rout out the rebels along its border. I imagine that Venezuela saw Colombia using its U.S.-supplied drones, and thought “let’s build our own!”
See Wikipedia on “Colombia-Venezuela Relations”. Also, here’s a good discussion about their border:
WILPERT: Well, no, we don’t know very much, but one can be almost certain that there is some FARC in Venezuela, because we’re talking about a 1,200 mile border between the two countries that is practically uncontrollable. Venezuela has something like three times as many soldiers along the border as Colombia does. So it’s actually controlling—just from a military point of view, it’s controlling the border a hell of a lot better than Colombia is. But, still, it’s impossible to control the entire border. And so it’s pretty certain that there’s infiltration not just of Colombian guerrillas, but also of paramilitary forces, and of course of drug traffickers of various kinds. And there have been fights between the Venezuelan military and those various armed groups. So, yeah, they cross the border, but that doesn’t mean that Venezuela is actively supporting them, which is the actual main argument of Colombia. There’s absolutely no proof that Venezuela is supporting them. As a matter of fact, Chávez now—in this recent agreement, said that Venezuela will not tolerate any Colombian camps, guerrilla camps in Venezuela and would do all it can to actually promise—he will do all he can to get rid of them if they are found by the Venezuelan military.
“The brigades have clear instructions to try to find these FARC bandits. And if they do they are going to capture them, and if they resist they will use their weapons,” Santos said. “Those are the instructions that President Chavez gave, to fire on them.”
I’m impressed with how easily Presidents Chavez and Santos got on the same page, responding so quickly to these attacks by working together, coordinating their efforts. Venezuelan and Colombia have put so much effort into forging a strong relationship, it’d be a shame if these hostilites with the FARC were once again to put a strain on it.