Colombia says FARC documents show Correa ties

Sun Mar 2, 2008 11:46pm EST

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By Patrick Markey

BOGOTA, March 2 (Reuters) - Colombia said on Sunday documents found in a camp in Ecuador where Colombian troops killed a top guerrilla boss showed ties between the FARC rebels and Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa, including contacts about political proposals and local military commanders.

FARC rebel commander Raul Reyes was killed inside Ecuador in an army operation that has fueled tensions between Washington ally Colombia and neighbors Venezuela and Ecuador, where leftist leaders are fiercely opposed to U.S. proposals.

Police Commander Gen. Oscar Naranjo said documents found in computers belonging to Reyes showed contacts between a Correa government minister, Gustavo Larrea, and the FARC commander to discuss political proposals and projects on the frontier.

"The questions raised by these documents need concrete answers," Naranjo said. "What is the state of relations between Ecuador's government and a terrorist group like the FARC."

But Ecuador's Interior Minister Fernando Bustamante dismissed the accusations as false and Venezuela called the announcement an attempted smear campaign against Correa, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

"We are not going to accept such a thing," Bustamante said. "It is very easy to say something based on evidence that has not been scrutinized publicly or internationally."

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has often accused the FARC of using Venezuelan and Ecuadorean territory as safe havens from military attacks. His neighbors say Colombia fails to stop violent spillover from its four-decade conflict.

Naranjo said one document revealed an offer by the Ecuadorean government to transfer police and army commanders in the area who proved hostile to the FARC.

The raid has sparked a diplomatic crisis, with Ecuador and Venezuela sending troops to their frontiers with Colombia. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said a similar raid on his country would be a declaration of war.

The FARC began as a socialist-inspired army in the 1960s but U.S. and EU officials say it is now engaged in cocaine trafficking. Rebels have held scores of hostages for years, including French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American contract workers.

Aided by billions of dollars in U.S. funds, Uribe has driven back the FARC to remoter areas and violence and bombings associated with Latin America's oldest insurgency has dropped sharply. (Additional reporting by Alonso Soto in Quito, editing by Jackie Frank)