CARACAS – The Venezuelan government presented on Thursday what officials called “irrefutable evidence” that neighboring Colombia has dispatched spies to Venezuela, Ecuador and Cuba as part of an ambitious, CIA-financed operation.
Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami detailed the contents of documents allegedly originating with Colombia’s DAS security service and unearthed since the apprehension of two suspected Colombian on Venezuelan soil.
He said Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was fully aware of the espionage carried out by the DAS, which reports directly to the office of the head of state and has been repeatedly caught spying on journalists, judges and opposition politicians in its own country.
El Aissami said the purported DAS documents refer to three operations: “Salomon,” targeting Ecuador; “Phoenix,” aimed at Cuba, and “Falcon,” directed at Venezuela.
He said the information was compiled in the course of a DAS internal investigation about a leak of classified information.
The minister did not say how he obtained the DAS report.
One of those interviewed in the DAS probe, “Carlos Orguela Orguela, Colombian identification card No. 79,596,402,” told questioners that Operation Salomon involved 144 agents and that the funding came from DAS and the U.S. Embassy in Bogota.
The U.S. mission, El Aissami said, “pays the rent for the sham office” used by the spies.
“With operational support given by the DAS and the CIA they accomplished the recruitment of high-profile human sources who currently provide strategic information to the DAS,” the Venezuelan official said.
Orguela said the results of the spy efforts were relayed to Uribe and then-Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos “in three official presentations and an informal one.”
El Aissami said the aim of the Colombian espionage operation in Venezuela was “to collect information about the Bolivarian National Armed Forces” as well as “to suborn and corrupt officials” and enlist opposition politicians.
“We know who is involved here in Venezuela in Project Falcon,” the minister said, though providing no details.
Caracas obtained the documents pursuant to the capture of two DAS agents in Venezuela, El Aissami told the National Assembly.
He said that Eduardo Gonzalez Muñoz and Angel Jacinto Guanare were arrested Oct. 2 in Maracay, 80 kilometers (50 miles) west of Caracas, along with one of their sources, Venezuelan citizen Melvin Argenis Gutierrez.
In announcing the arrests of the suspected DAS agents earlier this week, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recalled that he had previously alerted Uribe “about the conspiratorial activities” of Colombian operatives in Venezuela.
Those activities continue, the Venezuelan leader said, “above all now with the decision of Colombia” to sign an accord with Washington giving the U.S. Armed Forces access to seven Colombian military bases.
Officials in Bogota, which has received some $6 billion in mainly military aid from the United States since 2000, say the pact will be signed Friday.
Chavez, survivor of a 2002 coup attempt that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says took place with Washington’s advance knowledge if not active collusion, says the basing agreement poses a threat to his “Bolivarian Revolution.” EFE