Finnish connection found on computer of Colombian guerrillas
Colombian police say FARC recruiter visited Finland in 2001
A computer found in the jungle in Ecuador, which once belonged to the leader of Colombia’s leftist guerrillas has indicated that the FARC rebels have had a contact with Finland.
According to the documents on the computer’s hard disc, a contact person in Finland has apparently offered a hiding place in Finland for FARC guerrillas who might need one.
A Finnish person is also believed to have taken part in a meeting in Panama in which monetary assistance for the guerrillas was discussed.
FARC recruiter Ovidio Salinas Pérez is believed to have visited Finland in 2001.
According to Colombian police, the visit suggests that Finland and the other Nordic countries were seen as an important area in FARC’s search for political and financial support.
The computer which revealed the Finnish connections, was found in a FARC jungle camp just over a year ago, in connection with a raid in which FARC leader Raul Reyes was killed. Colombian police are still going through tens of thousands of pages of documents and e-mails.
Helsingin Sanomat has learned that the computer holds information about a person who lives, or has lived in Finland, who would have offered to arrange safe accommodation for guerrillas in flight, or their family members.
One of the fighters referred to the person as “our friend in Finland” in an e-mail to Reyes, says a journalistic source familiar with the e-mail correspondence.
It is unclear exactly when these messages were written, and if any of the plans were ever implemented.
Colombian police are not confirming or denying the information. “So far we have not confirmed the names of the people, or the offer of a hiding place”, says Colombia’s top police official, General Oscar Naranjo in an e-mail message to Helsingin Sanomat from the capital Bogota.
Reyes was considered the ideological leader of FARC. His goal was to oersyade the international community to recognise the organisation as a “warring party” in the eyes of international law, which is in a legitimate state of war with Colombia. The United States and the European Union see FARC as a terrorist organisation.
Reyes sought to establish an international support and lobbying network for FARC. His representatives in Europe and Latin America solicited support for “the struggle of the people of Colombia” by establishing relations with leftist parties, student organisations, and radical groups.
One person close to Reyes was Ovidio Salinas Pérez, alias Juan Antonio Rojas, who had visited Finland.
This former labour union activist is known within the organisation as El Embajador, or “The Ambassador”. He sought funding from abroad, mapped out places of exile, and sought help in the establishment of pro-FARC websites abroad.
The United States froze his assets in 2008 and considers him a drug trafficker and terrorist on the basis of the information gleaned from the computer.
Naranjo says that soon after the death of Reyes, FARC was in a hurry to send its leaders abroad and to make use of its network of partners.
“A large number of social and human rights organisations operate in the northern part of Europe. With their clandestine political work they make it easier to get asylum for leaders of the terrorist organisation, appealing to the lack of security in Colombia”, he says.
Certain European organisations with ties to FARC have said that they work on behalf of peace in Colombia, and against human rights abuses committed by the country’s right-wing government.
The hard disc on Reyes’ computer also contained information on a Finnish NGO worker who is believed to have met Salinas-Pérez in Panama in 2004.
Also taking part in the secret meeting were activists from Sweden, Denmark, and Italy. They say that they collected 500,000 US dollars for the guerrillas.
Helsingin Sanomat has learned that at least two NGOs were involved, one of which also operates in Finland.
The meeting had been arranged by a Swedish woman.
According to an article appearing in the Panamanian newspaper La Prensa in October last year, Salinas Péres said in a message to Reyes that the Swede had worked extensively to bring European groups together to support the goals of FARC.
Colombian police have given contradictory assessments of the event. Luis Gilberto Ramirez Calle, the head of intelligence at the police, confirmed to Helsingin Sanomat that Salinas Pérez had met with various organisations in Panama.
Meanwhile, General Naranjo says that there were no indications on the hard disk of any meeting in Panama.
Neither the Finnish Security Police nor the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) have received requests from Colombia for investigative assistance, nor have they taken part in the investigations by Colombian officials.
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Wikipedia)