According to a confidential U.S. diplomatic cable released last Wednesday, Ex-Colombian President Álvaro Uribe knowingly maintained a “hypocritical” relationship with neighboring Venezuela during his time in office – ordering armed operations within Venezuelan territory while at the same time seeking to diplomatically “manage” Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. The cables, made available by Wikileaks, were published by Colombia’s daily El Espectador.
Yesterday, El Espectador reported that the strategy of the Uribe administration (2002-2010), as understood by U.S. diplomats based in Colombia, was to “manage Chávez as opposed to confront him” while taking “advantage of the porous border” between the Andean nations to “conduct operations against narcotraffickers and terrorists [in Venezuela] when required.”
Colombia’s two largest armed guerrilla organizations, the Armed Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) and National Liberation Army (ELN), are classified by both the Colombian Government and U.S. State Department as “terrorist” organizations.
According to the confidential cable written in 2006 by then U.S. ambassador to Colombia William Wood, Uribe worked “to maintain a positive bilateral atmosphere, using joint energy projects and trade to create incentives to moderate Chávez’s behavior.”
The former Colombian President used this approach, wrote Wood, “to create the political space to permit clandestine cross border operations” into Venezuela.
Uribe “authorizes clandestine cross border operations against the FARC as appropriate, while trying to avoid a repeat of the crisis generated by the capture of FARC official Rodrigo Granda,” affirmed the U.S. ambassador.
In the cable released by Wikileaks and published by Colombian daily El Espectador, Uribe’s presidential advisor, Jose Obdulio Gaviria, is said to have told U.S. diplomats, “we are the perfect hypocrites,” as it related to the Uribe administration’s relationship with their Venezuelan counterparts.
The Granda Affair
According to a 2005 report by Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, the FARC’s “foreign minister” Rodrigo Granda was granted authorization from the Colombian government to meet with the French ambassador in Caracas so as to negotiate the release of then hostage and ex-presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
Negotiations were cut short after Granda disappeared from Caracas on 13 December 2004 in a kidnapping coordinated by Colombian security officials and what COHA calls, “renegade Venezuelan national guardsmen and policemen serving as bounty hunters without the instruction of their superiors.”
Granda later reappeared in Colombia on 4 January 2005, under custody of Colombian security forces, leading Venezuela’s Chávez to denounce Colombia’s “violation of Venezuela’s national sovereignty,” call back his ambassador to Bogotá and suspend all commercial ties with Colombia.
The Colombian government later recognized it had paid the insubordinate Venezuelan officials for the successful kidnapping.
After years of severed and re-established relations between the two countries, Venezuela and Colombia fully restored diplomatic relations in August 2010.
Weeks earlier, just before Uribe had handed over the presidency to now President Juan Manuel Santos, Venezuela cut off all relations with Colombia and put Venezuela’s armed forces on “maximum alert” after Colombia filed official complaints to the Organization of American States (OAS) accusing Venezuela of providing safe havens to the FARC and ELN.
Wiki Leaks to El Espectador
“They’ve handed us more than 16,000 cables from both Colombia and Venezuela” said Fidel Cono, Director of Colombia’s oldest daily news paper, El Espectador, on Sunday.
On Saturday, Cono published an article in which he described how he personally obtained a memory stick containing all of the documents from Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange. Earlier this month, says Cono, he made a trip to England for the sole purpose of having his paper become “Wikileaks’ ally in Colombia”.
At that time, Assange told him that the cables contained “a lot of information” that would “be good to have known in your country [Colombia],” affirmed Cono.
Speaking to Colombia’s Caracol Radio, Cono also stated that Assange “doesn’t trust” the Venezuelan media and that, “for this reason provided us with all of the information related to that nation [Venezuela] dating back to 2005.”
Cono and colleagues at El Espectador have only begun to review the first batch of cables, and plan to produce weekly reports using the material for the better part of an entire year.
Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Colombia’s acting Justice and Interior Minister German Vargas Lleras, told Colombia’s El Tiempo that his government “doesn’t care about the WikiLeaks revelations.”
“It [WikiLeaks] gives information transparency and is a problem of the United States Embassy,” he said.