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Spain Presses Venezuela on Suspected ETA Training


President Hugo Chávez (August 2010)

President Hugo Chávez (August 2010)

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero urged Venezuelan authorities Wednesday to respond to Spain's call for help in probing allegations that Basque terrorists are trained in the South American Country.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez earlier this week dismissed the allegations made by two suspected ETA members who were arrested in Spain last week.

Mr. Zapatero said the statements which have caused such uproar are enough for his government to launch an inquiry and for the Venezuelan government to give a response to Spain.

Later Wednesday Venezuela's Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said his country will investigate the allegations.

The two suspects: Juan Carlos Besance and Xavier Atristain, told police that in Venezuela they met with ETA's alleged representative for the country, Arturo Cubillas, and received training from him in 2008. Cubillas is a senior official in Venezuela's agriculture ministry.

A Spanish judge, Eloy Velasco, who is investigating alleged links between Spain's ETA and Colombia's FARC rebels, says Cubillas is responsible for coordinating relations between the two groups. He ordered Spanish police to interrogate nine former FARC members in Colombia as part of the probe into links between FARC, Venezuelan government and Spain's Basque separatists.

Velasco accused Venezuela in March of helping ETA and Colombian rebels with a plot to assassinate then-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez called that accusation "stupid."

News reports from Spain quote legal sources as saying Velasco is scheduled to hear testimonies on November 15
from two former Venezuelan officials who may have knowledge of ETA activities in their country.

ETA has killed more than 800 people in its 40-year campaign for an independent Basque state in northern Spain and southern France.

FARC is an armed wing of Colombia's Communist Party, whose activities include bombings, murder, kidnapping, extortion, hijacking, as well as conventional military action against the government.

The United States lists both groups as terrorist organizations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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