Venezuelan government dismisses \'FARC documents\'

Venezuela's foreign minister, Nicolas Maduro, has dismissed the authenticity of documents that the Colombian government claims were found in a computer that belonged to Raul Reyes, a leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Reyes was killed when Colombian forces attacked a FARC encampment inside Ecuadoran territory on March 1. Colombia's foreign minister, Fernando Araujo, said he gave the documents to the Venezuelan embassy in Bogota on Saturday.

On April 1, Maduro confirmed on the Venezuelan state television channel VTV that the government had received "a white plastic folder with a bunch of photocopies of papers signed with strange names and codes" from the Colombian foreign ministry.

However, Maduro said, the Venezuelan government does "not recognise in any manner the supposed existence of these documents they say survived in a computer".

The Colombian government alleges that the documents prove the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been backing the FARC.

Nothing new is revealed by the documents, Maduro claimed, "because we have already read it in the Colombian media, which carries out a daily campaign against the honour of the president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and against our government".

Maduro appealed to the Colombian media to "cease the campaign against our government and restore balance and respect" toward Venezuela.

Araujo has clarified that the documents were delivered despite INTERPOL, which was asked to verify that the documents have not been manipulated by Colombian officials, not yet issuing its certification.

Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, the Venezuelan interior and justice minister, has claimed that the documents are "not going to have any value".

Colombia also recently delivered documents to Ecuador that allegedly reveal an illicit relationship between left-wing Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa and the FARC. On April 2 Ecuador's foreign minister, Maria Isabel Salvador, dismissed the claims.

On April 2, French President Nicolas Sarkozy revealed that a joint French, Spanish and Swiss humanitarian mission would be sent to Colombia on April 3 to provide medical attention and perhaps put in motion the liberation of the FARC's highest profile prisoner, Ingrid Betancourt. (Betancourt, a former Colombian senator, holds French citizenship.)

Before Reyes' death, Betancourt's release was being negotiated by French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner. Reyes was the key FARC contact for negotiations.

Betancourt, who has been a prisoner of the FARC for six years, is reportedly gravely ill.

Uribe has agreed to cease "military actions" in the zone where the mission intends to go once the point of contact is determined. The Colombian high commissioner for peace, Luis Carlos Restrepo, declared on March 28 that the Colombian government would free imprisoned FARC soldiers in exchange for Betancourt — a reversal of Uribe's hard-line military policy.

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