"I had never evidence of FARC in Venezuela"
"Interestingly, (ex Colombian President Álvaro) Uribe waited for almost eight years to reveal the OAS (Organization of American States) the presence (in Venezuela) of the FARC (Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces)
Easy-going and self-assured, Colombia's former President Andrés Pastrana confronted at leisure the audience in an event recently convened by the Christian Democratic Training Institute (Ifedec). He seems to take his status of former president (1998-2002) quite realistically.
Venezuela would fear Colombian presidents because in border disputes they would always win and take a big chunk of Venezuelan territory. However, such a view changed upon the arrival of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. He muddled Colombian ex President Álvaro Uribe with the issue of guerrillas. Also, despite distrust, he managed to be designated mediator in the conflict. Later on, his worst foe, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, would become his "new best friend." However, you were the first one to cope with Chávez. Viewed from a distance, do you feel he cheated you?
I can speak from the government point of view. I do not know about his relations with Santos and Uribe, but I do think that the reason for deteriorated relations was mediation and the subsequent dismissal of Chávez by President Uribe. Now, at the outset, the relation with President Chávez was not easy. Remember his first remarks in San Pedro Alejandrino, where he pledged to be impartial in the case of guerrillas. Later on, a number of comments came on the Colombian conflict, and we took issue with it. However, at the end of the day, and I have always said so, Chávez was honest and outspoken. No matter our differences and exchange of words, in dealing with either the ELN (National Liberation Army) or FARC, I would get in touch with him and he would request my consent to hold such talks. In that, it was a transparent relation.
This seems quite news...
He would insist: "I want to go to Caguán." I deemed it not appropriate and discouraged him. He would reply, "How can I help then?" And I answered: "In good timing. There is the need to see if there is any progress."
He wanted to lend a hand; yet there is the impression that he wanted to help the FARC.
Possibly or not. However, I prevented it, because it is not advisable for neighboring countries to involve directly in a deal. It is like lending money to a friend, for both the friend and the money will be lost.
Did you ever learn from an affective and ideological linkage between the FARC and Chávez?
Nor were Venezuelans aware of Chávez's goal in 1999.
Do not you think that Chávez supported the FARC to oust democratic governments?
Any attempt at overthrowing them by means of arms? No. I had no proof or evidence. Interestingly, only until the very end of his government, President Uribe reported that the FARC were present in Venezuela. He waited for eight years to lodge the complaint at the OAS (Organization of American States).
The deployment of FARC in Venezuela is not news; it has been so for many years. The problem for Colombia is that guerrilla groups here yielded benefit from kidnapping and bribery to fund their war against the Colombian State.
I cannot attest to it. I cannot talk about things I do not know for sure. This was the case for ETA (Basque nationalist and separatist organization), when my Spanish friends queried about any activities of this group in Colombia. I never had evidence. I do not know of any mechanisms financed by Chávez. There has been speculation on the alleged funding of campaigns, of a Bolivarian movement operating on the border. Thus far, I do not know them. Had I, as a president, counted on such information, I would have been the first one to make it publicly known.
What, in your opinion, is the reason for the shift in bilateral relations by President Santos?
President Santos just sought to prevent a confrontational policy and make room for all neighbors and the region. The harm made to Colombia in terms of trade was huge. We went from USD 7 billion to USD 1.5 billion in trade. All (Colombian) exports to Venezuela now come from Brazil. We lost the markets.
Translated by Conchita Delgado
The very early morning after the presidential election (April 15), both candidates requested the National Electoral Council (CNE) to conduct a full audit of the process: one, Henrique Capriles, because he asserts that the election results are different from the ones announced, and the other one, Nicolás Maduro, in order to clear any doubt regarding his victory, and to reinforce his political stance. Nevertheless, as it is already known, President Maduro changed his mind.