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U.S. Envoy: Chavez Not Helping in Battle

May 26, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ The U.S. ambassador to Venezuela said Thursday that Colombian guerrillas have an ``active presence″ in the country and accused President Hugo Chavez of being uncooperative in counterterrorism efforts.

Ambassador William Brownfield said the United States is concerned about the presence in Venezuela of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, and the National Liberation Army, or ELN, both of which the U.S. considers terrorist organizations.

``We have requested specific collaboration from the Venezuelan government over 100 times in the last two years, mainly regarding immigration and movements of specific people in Venezuelan territory and the truth is we haven’t received any answers,″ Brownfield told Venezuelan reporters.

``Hopefully, the two governments can talk and try to resolve these problems,″ he said.

Colombian rebels have for decades been known to slip across the border and, at times, set up camps in Venezuelan territory.

Brownfield said ``the active presence of some organizations in Venezuela, such as the FARC and ELN″ was a factor in a U.S. decision to classify Venezuela as uncooperative on the issue of terrorism, along with its close ties to Iran and Cuba.

Last month, the U.S. State Department said Chavez has an ``ideological affinity″ with Colombian rebel groups and criticized his government’s anti-terrorism initiatives as ``practically inexistent.″ The U.S. government announced this month that it would curtail new arms deals to Venezuela.

Chavez has denied the U.S. allegations and accused Washington of trying to turn international opinion against him.

Chavez says his soldiers have been ordered to stop any illegal armed group from crossing the border, which is difficult to police because it runs through remote mountains and thick jungles.

Chavez says he has tried to help end Colombia’s decades-long armed conflict rather than support rebel groups.

Chavez, an ally of Cuban President Fidel Castro, has accused the U.S. government of setting a double standard on terrorism by not extraditing two suspects wanted for their roles in 2003 bombings that injured four people in Caracas.

Brownfield said Venezuela has rejected U.S. requests for the extradition of three high-profile drug traffickers: Luis Alfredo Nanez Duarte, Jose Maria Corredor and Juan Mateo Holguin Ovalle.

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