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Chavez: Interpol report a 'clown show'

  • Story Highlights
  • Venezuelan leader blasts report that says files taken in raid weren't altered
  • Hugo Chavez says Colombia tampered with files to fabricate evidence
  • Colombia seized computers in March 1 raid on FARC camp in Ecuador
  • Colombia says computer files show link among Venezuela, Ecuador and FARC
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(CNN) -- Colombia did not alter computer files that it claims show Venezuelan support for a leftist rebel group, the international police organization Interpol said Thursday.

But Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez dismissed the findings from an Interpol report as "a clown show" and ridiculed Interpol secretary general Ronald Noble as "a tremendous actor."

Chavez issued the statement after Interpol concluded that Colombia did not modify computer files that were seized during a raid of a leftist rebel camp in March.

The items were seized during Colombia's March 1 raid on a rebel camp in Ecuador occupied by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. The raid killed 25 people, including Raul Reyes, second-in-command of FARC, who is thought to have owned the files.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe says the files contain evidence that Venezuela and Ecuador were supporting the rebels.

Chavez denies the allegations and claims that Colombia tampered with the files to fabricate evidence of a link between Venezuela and FARC. He also accused Interpol of trying to give "the clown show the character of scientific seriousness."

But Interpol announced Thursday that a forensic analysis of the three laptop computers, three USB drives and two external hard disks indicated that the files had not been modified since Colombia took possession of them.

Interpol said it did not examine the files for content. But Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble, whom Chavez called a "gringo" policeman and "a tremendous actor," said the organization is "absolutely certain" that the materials came from a FARC camp.

In an interview with CNN en Espaņol on Thursday, Noble refused to comment on the content of the files. But he hailed the files as the largest collection of records in the world concerning FARC, one that would help other countries learn about the group's inner workings.

Since Colombia obtained the files, it has presented them as evidence that Venezuela and Ecuador have supported the rebels, who have waged a long and complex battle against the Colombian government for control of the country.

The United States, which considers FARC a terrorist organization, has access to the computers' information and is conducting its own analysis, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department said Thursday.

Colombia's top police officer said in early March that documents taken from the computers showed that Chavez had given $300 million to FARC.

Venezuela denied that claim. Ecuador, too, has lashed out at the accusations and accused Colombia of trying to use the files to justify the March 1 attack.

"This smear campaign has been illustrated by the famous episode with the computer, which supposedly connected us with FARC," said Rafael Correa, Ecuador's president.

The attack provoked a regional crisis, leading Ecuador and Venezuela to send troops to their borders with Colombia and denounce the attack as an infringement on Ecuador's sovereignty.

The results are likely to further strain relations between the United States and Venezuela, which enjoy major trade ties despite significant political and ideological differences.

Venezuela gets 31 percent of its imports from the United States, making the U.S. its largest trading partner. The country sends 46 percent of its exports to the United States, according to the CIA.

If the United States were to declare Venezuela a supporter of terrorism, it could affect travel and trade between the two countries.

The findings are also likely to cause more tension among Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia, a key Washington ally.

The United States and several global humanitarian agencies believe FARC has kidnapped hundreds of people and hidden them in the Colombian jungle, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

"Colombia faces a hostile and anti-American neighbor in Venezuela, where the region has forged an alliance with Cuba, collaborated with FARC terrorists and provided sanctuary to FARC units," President Bush told the Council of the Americas on May 7.

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