Venezuela is now the go-to place for terrorists to get weapons training, said Manuel Marraco in Madrid’s El Mundo. Last week, two captured members of the banned Basque militant group ETA—which has been waging a bloody, decades-long fight for independence from Spain—told Spanish authorities that they had been trained in Venezuela. We already knew that Venezuela was hosting rebel camps for FARC, a group that wants to overthrow the government in neighboring Colombia. Now we learn that FARC and ETA are “working together in Venezuela to develop explosives”—apparently with the blessing of the Venezuelan government. According to the captured militants, Arturo Cubillas Fontan, an ETA member, acts as liaison between the two terrorist groups in Venezuela. Yet not only did Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez “give Cubillas Venezuelan citizenship to avoid having to extradite him to Spain,” he actually gave the terrorist a position in his Cabinet.
Spanish investigators are cooperating closely with Colombian intelligence to probe these links, said Pedro Alonso in the Granada, Spain, Ideal. A Spanish court has asked Colombia to analyze computers seized from FARC to see if there is any information regarding contacts with ETA. The judge has even sent photographs of the two captured ETA members so they can be identified by repentant former FARC militants who now cooperate with the Colombian government. Rumor has it that a Venezuelan dissident—a former Chávez official who now lives “in witness protection in the U.S.”—will also be questioned. As a state prosecutor, this dissident claims, he received direct orders “to drop the case against an ETA militant who had been caught entering Venezuela with false papers.”
Spain’s judiciary is on the case—but why hasn’t the Spanish government made a bigger outcry? asked Bogotá’s El Colombiano in an editorial. Far be it from Colombia to meddle in Spain’s affairs, but we are directly concerned here, since the ETA militants confirm that Venezuela has been arming the FARC rebels that menace our own country. Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has been inexcusably “timid” in pressing Venezuelan leader Chávez for an explanation. He didn’t even take umbrage when Venezuela’s ambassador “dared to hint” that the ETA members’ confessions “may have been obtained under torture.” Spain’s curious reticence can have only one explanation: “economic self-interest.” Spanish companies have huge investments in Venezuelan oil, and in the current economic climate, Zapatero will do nothing to jeopardize them.
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That’s no excuse, said Hermann Tertsch in Madrid’s ABC. Spain’s primary interest lies in preserving Spanish lives, not furthering Spanish business. “And Spanish lives are at stake wherever ETA militants are trained to kill.” Yet Zapatero simply hangs his head and murmurs that he’s sure Chávez will investigate the allegations thoroughly. “Does Chávez have some kind of power over the Spanish government? What secret is he holding over it?” Maybe someday we’ll know.
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