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Sunday, August 02, 2009

Ecuador sees ties between Correa's ex-aides and FARC

July 30, 2009; 6:10 PM

QUITO (Reuters) - Documents in which a slain leader of Colombia's FARC rebel group said he gave money to former aides of leftist Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa appear to be genuine, Ecuador's government said on Thursday.

Revelations from the diary of Raul Reyes, a top guerrilla commander killed in 2008, threaten to widen the rift between U.S.-backed Colombia and socialist leaders in the Andean region, including Correa, who criticize the United States while forging ties with Russia, China and Iran.

"(The diary) looks genuine, that's why we have shown it, but ... it's still an alleged proof, until the attorney in charge of the investigation says that it is real," Defense Minister Javier Ponce told reporters.

Reyes was a commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, branded a terrorist group by Washington.

His death in March 2008 in a Colombian bombing raid carried out on Ecuadorian soil sparked a diplomatic feud between the neighboring countries.

Colombia has long complained that Correa is not doing enough to fight FARC guerrillas who set up camps in Ecuador.

The issues raised by the diary come as the United States and Colombia negotiate a deal to expand the U.S. military presence in the country, a move that Ecuador and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez call a threat to Colombia's neighbors.

In the diary Reyes says he met with Ecuadorian officials, including former Correa interior minister Gustavo Larrea.

Ecuador on Wednesday gave reporters copies of entries in the hand-written diary, in which Reyes says the FARC met with Larrea and that the Marxist rebel group gave money to people they thought were Correa's envoys.

"The contribution given to Correa is a lease, when we don't have enough money to pay the lease, it'll be over," one entry reads. Reyes talks elsewhere in the diary about "contributions in cash to Correa's campaign."

However, Reyes also said he suspected that the Ecuadoreans with whom he had regular meetings were not loyal to the Correa government.

"They say they are friends with Correa. But at the end of the day, they work for drug traffickers, who can pay really well for their services," said the copies of the diary handed out to reporters.

Ponce said the diary demonstrates that "President (Correa) did not know what was going on. If they really happened, the negotiations took place behind his back."

The FARC has denied accusations by the Colombian government that it gave money to Correa.

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