Again displaying his penchant for name-calling, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called Interpol chief Ronald Noble a “corrupt” and “immoral” “gringo policeman” and “international vagabond,” and branded as “ridiculous” a new report authenticating computer data allegedly seized from a FARC camp in Ecuador. The data reportedly indicate the FARC had sought arms from the Chávez government. Chávez also called the report a “show of clowns,” and asked: “Where is the evidence that the computers came from that camp?”
In a Bogotá press conference, Noble said the computers contained more than 600 gigabytes of information—equivalent to 39.5 million pages of text—and that 64 members of Interpol from 15 countries spent more than 5,000 hours analyzing it. “No one can ever question whether or not the Colombian government tampered with the seized FARC computers,” Noble said. “There was no tampering with, or altering of, any of the data contained in the user files by any of the Colombian law enforcement authorities following their seizure.”
Noble also asserted: “We are absolutely certain that the computer exhibits that our experts examined came from a FARC terrorist camp.” However, he did not explain how his investigators determined the computers’ origin. Noble acknowledged that seizure of the computers was a violation of internationally recognized rules on handling electronic evidence.
After his Caracas press conference in response to the report, Chávez left for Lima to take part in a summit with nearly 60 leaders and top officials from Latin America, Europe and the Caribbean. Both Colombian President Alvaro Uribe and Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa were expected to attend the European Community/Latin America and Caribbean Summit. (Miami Herald, WP, NYT, May 16)
The Associated Press took the opportunity of Interpol’s findings to ruminate on Venezuela’s current arms build-up. Venezuela is buying Russian fighter jets and helicopters, and Chinese light-attack jets. It is manufacturing armored combat vehicles that can be mounted with surface-to-air missiles, planning to build South America’s first Kalashnikov rifle factory, and amassing rockets, bullets, assault weapons, sniper rifles and night-vision equipment. Chávez told soldiers celebrating the anniversary of his return to power after a brief 2002 coup: “We aren’t going to attack anybody. But I always say this: Nobody should make a mistake with us. Our fatherland is permanently threatened by imperialism.”
But military analysts cited by AP say it is Colombia that should fear Venezuela’s 100,000 Russian-made assault rifles, 5,000 Dragunov sniper rifles and surface-to-air missiles. “These are just the sorts of weapons that the FARC would find interesting since these are the standard tools of guerrilla warfare,” said John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org. (AFP, May 16)