The air raid, the laptops, and the crisis
Colombia seized the three laptop computers, three USB memory sticks, and two external hard disks following an air raid March 1 on a rebel camp just across the border in Ecuador. The bombing killed Raúl Reyes, the FARC's No. 2 leader, and 24 others.
The raid sparked a tense diplomatic crisis with Ecuador and Venezuela blasting Colombia for the cross-border attack and Colombia hitting back by announcing that dozens of files found on the computers showed the government of both neighboring countries had close links with the rebels who have been trying to take power for four decades.
Chávez's ideological kinship with the guerrillas is no secret, but evidence that he may have provided logistical support to the FARC would place his government in a difficult position since the rebel group has been labeled a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Among the more than 37,000 text files extracted from the hard disks and memory sticks, some of which have been leaked to the press, is one e-mail message from the FARC's top military leader, Jorge Briceño, also known as "Mono Jojoy," who proposes to the rebels' governing secretariat that they ask Chávez for a loan of $250 million, "to be repaid when we take power."
Other leaked documents suggest that Venezuelan officials served as middlemen with Australian arms dealers to help the rebels acquire Chinese-made surface-to-air missiles in exchange for training in guerrilla tactics.