Ortega Takes Heat for FARC Support
After bidding to negotiate a peace agreement on behalf of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), President Daniel Ortega accused a local newspaper of “treason” for reporting that six of the group’s guerilla leaders recently flew to Managua in a Venezuelan plane to visit him.
Ortega is positioning himself as FARC’s new best friend after Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called for the group to disarm.
Chávez had been FARC’s main international supporter, but he backed off after allegations that he appeared to be helping fund the group.
Already angry about the three alleged FARC members to whom Nicaragua has granted asylum, Colombia recently called a meeting at the Organization of American States in Washington, D.C., to discuss Ortega’s “abusive and aggressive” pledge to help FARC negotiate.
“Only one government on the continent publicly supports terrorism. It has to have political and legal consequences,” said Colombia’s ambassador to the OAS, Camilo Ospina.
FARC, which funds itself with drug trafficking and kidnapping, is Latin America’s oldest and largest insurgency group, and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and the European Union.
Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has refused the group’s demand to grant them a haven as a condition for peace talks. FARC, which Ospina estimates has as many as 9,000 members and 700 hostages, has suffered major blows in recent months from the Colombian military.
A March 1 attack on a FARC camp in Ecuador killed the group’s No. 2 leader, Raul Reyes. In July, Colombian soldiers rescued 15 high-profile FARC hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.
After the March attack, the Colombian military released information from Reyes’ laptop suggesting Chávez promised FARC millions in financial support.
Ortega was mentioned in the laptops but to a lesser extent. A reporter from the daily La Prensa, who analyzed Reyes’ e-mails reported that FARC rebels sought Ortega’s support to enlist Libya’s Omar Qaddafi as a weapon supplier of their revolutionary cause, though nothing suggested Ortega or Qaddafi were interested.
Ortega has asked Nicaragua Attorney General Hernan Estrada to investigate whether Nicaragua’s sovereignty was threatened by a more recent article in La Prensa, which reported Ortega met with six FARC leaders here July 19, the anniversary of the Sandinista Revolution.
Accusing his rival La Prensa owner Jaime Chamorro of “serving the interests of the Colombian oligarchy,” Ortega said that by reporting about the clandestine meeting, La Prensa “injured” Nicaraguan sovereignty by giving Colombia ammunition to use against Nicaragua in the territorial dispute between the two countries. Several legal experts have publicly questioned Ortega’s argument.
Nicaragua continues to butt heads with Colombia over disputed Caribbean territory, including the small Caribbean island of San Andres, escalating the drama with Colombia.
Ortega dealt a blow last week when he said he plans to hold onto Soviet anti-aircraft missiles in the case of an armed conflict with Colombia, despite U.S. attempts to trade medical supplies for Nicaragua’s Sam-7 shoulder-fired rockets.
The United States fears the Cold War-era missiles, which Nicaragua received when the Soviet Union fed arms to Marxist Sandinistas to fight U.S.-backed Contras in the ’80s, could fall into the hands of terrorists.
“The Sam-7 rockets are the only antiaircraft artillery we have to defend an air attack that Colombia could eventually launch against Nicaragua, because we don’t have airplanes to go to San Andres, where the Colombian authorities arrive with their warships and planes,” Ortega said.
Ortega last year offered to destroy 651 of more than 1,000 missiles – considered one of the largest missile caches in the Western Hemisphere – and the U.S. Embassy presented Ortega with a counterproposal last week. Apparently, Ortega didn’t bite.
Miguel D’Escoto, the former Sandinista AFPpriest recently elected the President of the United Nation’s General Assembly, said he will take its increasingly complicated differences with Colombia to the U.N. General
In a statement, D’Escoto said, “It appears the government of our sister Republic of Colombia is interested in maintaining war, as the United States is interested in taking advantage of war. . . To justify their aggression, they call (the FARC) terrorists.”
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