Ros-Lehtinen Urges Colombia to Share Intelligence Seized in Weekend Raid

March 6, 2008

WASHINGTON, March 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In a meeting today with Colombia's vice minister of defense, minister of trade, and ambassador, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) again expressed support for the Colombian government's efforts to counter the threat posed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), including last week's strike on the violent rebel group, and urged Colombia's government to share with the United States information seized in the raid.

On Saturday, Colombian police and security services raided the hideout of drug kingpin and kidnapper Raul Reyes , the number two leader of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). During the strike, Colombian authorities reportedly seized a computer notebook used by Reyes that details evidence of $300 million in payments to the FARC from the Venezuelan government, high-level contacts by the FARC with officials from Ecuador and Venezuela , and efforts by the FARC to obtain 50 kilograms of uranium.

"The success of this strike underscores the importance of confronting the dangerous enemies of freedom and the vital role that U.S. assistance to Colombia plays in strengthening the ability of our ally to combat deadly threats," said Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

During the briefing, Ros-Lehtinen also requested that the committee schedule a hearing or a classified session with senior Colombian police officials to discuss and review information obtained in the raid. U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chairman of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere who chaired today's briefing, assured Ros-Lehtinen that he would raise the request with Acting Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA). Colombia's Vice Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon told committee members that he would relay her request to Colombia's defense minister, who is soon scheduled to visit the United States . Also briefing members was Colombia's Minister of Trade Luis Guillermo Plata and Ambassador Carolina Barco Isakson.

Ros-Lehtinen also urged that Congress be briefed by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies regarding the FARC's reported connection with the Venezuelan and Ecuadorian governments prior to the raid and subsequent to the seizure of the FARC computer by Colombian security forces.

"Reports about financial ties between the Chavez government and a violent extremist group seeking to topple the democratically elected government of Colombia and the creation of FARC safe havens in Ecuador and Venezuela are extremely disconcerting," said Ros-Lehtinen.

Three weeks ago, in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Ros-Lehtinen requested that the State Department report on whether Venezuela's activities with the FARC and Iran warranted placing Venezuela on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list or designating it a sanctuary nation. "Due to recent revelations, I have asked the Secretary to extend the review to also cover Ecuador's activities with the FARC," said Ros-Lehtinen.

Ros-Lehtinen also urged Congressional leaders to schedule a vote on the Free Trade Agreement with Colombia . "This agreement will greatly benefit our economies and will serve as an important tool in countering the conditions that help breed instability in this South American nation."

SOURCE House Committee on Foreign Affairs (Republican Office)

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