The story surfaced in March 2008 after Colombia's military, with US Special Forces help, attacked a FARC-EP rebel camp in Ecuador. Over 20 people were killed, including 16 or more FARC-EP members while they slept. Key among them was Paul Reyes, the FARC-EP's second-in-command, their peace negotiator, public voice, and lead figure in the Chavez-led hostage negotiations with Colombia at the time.
Tensions rose when Colombian Vice President Francisco Santos Calderon said three laptops and other materials were found at the FARC-EP camp. Containing provocative evidence, he said, it showed a Chavez/Ecuadorean President Raphael Correa link to FARC-EP rebels, including Venezuela providing them weapons, munitions, and about $300 million.
Moreover, they were accused of acquiring 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of uranium, allegedly for a radioactive dirty bomb, as well as selling 700 kilograms of cocaine for about $1.5 million.
The story, in fact, lacked credibility, but major media reports featured it, grabbing any chance they can to bash Chavez. For example, on March 30, 2008, New York Times writer Simon Romero headlined, "Files Suggest Venezuela Bid to Aid Colombian Rebels," saying:
Captured computer files "appear to tie Venezuela's government to efforts to secure arms for Colombia's largest insurgency....which the United States says is a terrorist group...."
Established in 1964, it's the "longest standing, largest peasant-based guerrilla movement in the world," struggling valiantly to liberate Colombia from decades of repressive rule, according to noted Latin American expert James Petras.
Nonetheless, a follow-up May 16, 2008 Romero article headlined, "Files Tying Venezuela to Rebels Not Altered, Report Says," claiming:
Interpol forensic experts "found no signs that Colombia had altered files from" recovered computer documents.
Releasing their analysis on May 15, they said:
Secretary General Ronald Noble "advised senior Colombian law enforcement officials that INTERPOL's team of forensic experts discovered 'no evidence of modification, alteration, addition or deletion' in the user files of any of the three laptop computers, three USB thumb drives and two external hard disks seized during a Colombian anti-narcotics and anti-terrorist operation on a FARC camp on 1 March 2008."
However, Interpol also explained that lacking evidence doesn't prove no tampering. In fact, some files had future date stamps and other data alteration indications, casting doubts on the material's authenticity.
Specifically, its experts said:
"between 1 and 3 March, direct access to the seized computer exhibits....did not follow internationally recognized principles in the handling of electronic evidence under ordinary circumstance."
Moreover, other evidence was contradictory, Interpol, saying:
"Direct access may complicate validating this evidence for purposes of its introduction in a judicial proceeding because law enforcement is then required to demonstrate or prove that the direct access did not have a material impact on the purpose for which the evidence is intended."
In other words, claimed evidence was likely fake. Independent computer experts were also troubled, believing any time proper data handling procedures aren't followed, reliability is seriously jeopardized. With care, forensic specialists or computer professionals can add, delete or alter hard drive material without leaving a footprint.
Dominant media reports ignored this and more, including Interpol's statement that:
its experts didn't "evaluate the accuracy or the source of the exhibits' content." How could they? The volume was enormous, the equivalent of "39.5 million pages in Microsoft Word...." At the rate of 100 pages a day, "it would take more than 1,000 years to read" it.
That alone begs the question. In a few days or even weeks, how were Colombian authorities able to analyze and discover provocative information, a consideration ignored in major media reports, as well as the entire truth.
FARC-EP/Venezuelan Connection Round Two
Failing to make a credible case earlier, the alleged FARC-EP/Venezuala link resurfaced. On May 10, 2011, Romero headlined, "Venezuela Asked Colombian Rebels to Kill Opposition Figures, Analysis Shows," saying:
They have "an intricate history of collaboration with Venezuela officials, who have asked it to provide urban guerrilla training to pro-government cells here and to assassinate political opponents of Venezuela's president, according to a new analysis...."
A new analysis? Based on likely falsified information, Romero omitted that consideration from his report. Perhaps, however, it got him to say "no evidence (linked Chavez to) the assassination requests....(if) they were ever carried out," or if, in fact, they ever existed.
Featuring a same day story, the BBC headlined, "Colombian Farc rebels' links to Venezuela detailed," saying:
"Mr. Chavez let the Farc use Venezuelan territory but also moved against them when it suited him," a new report says.
Venezuela's UK embassy called it a "Latin America dodgy dossier," referring to Britain's 2003 briefing paper, alleging Saddam Hussein had WMDs, a charge now totally discredited.
The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) produced the cited report titled, "THE FARC FILES: Venezuela, Ecuador and the Secret Archive of Raul Reyes," saying:
An evaluation of likely altered computer disk information "belonging to Luis Edgar Devia Silva (aka Raul Reyes), head of FARC's International Committee (COMINTER), (show) how FARC evolved from a small autarkic and strategically irrelevant group into an insurgent movement (linked to) Venezuela and Ecuador."
As a result, claims IISS, it's been able to:
-- "obtain weaponry, such as man-portable air-defence systems (MANPADS), to alter the military balance in Colombia;
-- achieve political recognition and formal status as a belligerent;
-- impose its own narrative internationally at the expense of the Colombian government;
-- damage Colombia's relations with neighboring states;
-- and use its (Venezuelan and Ecuadorean) border enclaves to deal with a range of actors out of reach of Colombian security forces."
As a result of its strategic relationship with Venezuela and Ecuador, it "pose(s) a threat to the stability of Colombia and the Andean region."
IISS omitted important context from its report about America's closest South American ally. In fact, Colombia is a corrupted narco-state, a repressive death squad nation, threatening regional neighbors, as well as reigning terror against trade unionists, human rights workers, campesinos, pro-democracy organizations, independent journalists, and legitimate resistance groups like FARC-EP.
Moreover, since 1999, Washington provided the Pastrana, Uribe, and Santos governments billions of dollars in aid to:
-- permit Pentagon bases;
-- fund US weapons purchases;
-- bankroll Colombia's military;
-- train its soldiers at the School of the Americas (SOA), now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC);
-- topple FARC-EP and ELN resistance groups;
-- destabilize Venezuela, Ecuador and regional populist movements;
-- create business opportunities for US corporations;
-- control Colombia's resources, including oil, gas, coal, iron ore, nickel, copper, gold, silver, emeralds, and more;
-- promote drugs trafficking in government-controlled areas, as well as eradication in rebel-held territories; and
-- solidify Washington-enforced neoliberal militarized harshness.
By any standard, Colombia is lawless and brutish, yet IISS and major media reports vilify FARC-EP resistance fighters and regional democrats, whether or not sympathetic.
The unlikely validity of alleged computer tapes aside, honest reporting would explain the corrupted Washington - Bogata alliance, supporting militarized extremism, international drugs trafficking, and vast human misery, affecting millions of impoverished, displaced, and oppressed Colombians. Resistance struggling to end it deserves praise, not condemnation.
Instead, corporate-funded think tanks and major media reports support everything smelling power and money, no matter how many bodies pile up for more of them.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.