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Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez accused Colombian police forces of lying yesterday about the capture of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) “foreign minister,” Ricardo Granda, saying that he had proof that Granda was illegally abducted in Caracas.

During an interview with Eleazar Díaz Rangel, the director of Venezuelan newspaper, Últimas Noticias, in his weekly television show, Alo Presidente, Chávez confirmed that “There is no doubt, the Colombian police are lying. When they say Granda was captured in Cúcuta, the Colombian police are lying.”

According to allegations made by the FARC, Granda was kidnapped in Caracas on December 13th and driven across the border shared between the two countries, where he was officially captured. Both the Colombian police forces and the Colombian government have maintained otherwise, insisting that Granda was indeed apprehended two days later on Colombian soil.

Recent developments in the investigation have contradicted the Colombian version of the matter. Venezuelan Minister of the Interior and Justice, Jesse Chacón obtained a statement from a Colombian journalist, whose identity is not being released, who allegedly met Granda in Caracas on December 13th. According to the journalist, Granda stepped outside to take a cell phone call and never returned.

Phone records confirm this account, proving that Granda received a call to his cell phone in Venezuela just moments before he was kidnapped. The phone was turned off and ten hours later it was turned back on again in Santa Ana, in Tachira state, near the Colombian border.

“There are sufficient indications to believe that this man, who was in Venezuela without the knowledge...of the Venezuelan government, was kidnapped December 13th between 3:50 and 4:10pm,” noted Chacón.

With regard to Granda’s Venezuelan citizenship, which it was discovered he had acquired in 2004, Chavez explained that the police investigation showed that Granda acquired it under false pretenses, in which case his citizenship would be “null and void.” According to Chavez, some of the documents Granda used to prove that he had resided in Venezuela for over five years were false.

Also, Chavez showed Granda’s passport, which expired in 1997, which had entry stamps into and out of Colombia, stamped by Colombian border authorities. Chavez said, “this man led a legal life.”

Chávez went on to state in his interview, “I ratify that if a terrorist or a leader of a guerrilla group from Colombia or any country in the world is here in Venezuela, and if that person is wanted for any type of crime, that the government of that country should work with the Venezuelan institutions. They should never come here to search for him, let alone kidnap him; this is a violation of international law and of the human rights of the person implicated in the case.”

The dispute has proven controversial for Chávez who has recently made a concerted effort to improve economic and security ties between the two nations. “This is a serious situation...if the Colombian police really did violate Venezuelan sovereignty it will of course have an impact on our bilateral relations,” noted Chávez. However, he insisted that “rogue elements in both countries should not be allowed to undermine the recent improvement in relations between the two countries.”

In spite of rapidly accumulating evidence, Colombian authorities continue to stand by their initial position, that Granda was captured December 15th, in the Colombian border town of Cucuta. “Police acted fully with their rights by capturing a Colombian citizen in a Colombian territory,” stated Colombian Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe.

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Reorganization of Ministries

During his interview, Chavez also announced the reorganization of his cabinet. Two new ministries will be created that are related to the economic realm: a Ministry of Basic Industries and Mines and a Ministry of Tourism. Two other ministries will be renamed. The Ministry of Energy and Mines will now be the Ministry of Energy and Oil. And the Ministry of Industry and Commerce will now be the Ministry of Light Industries and Commerce.

Chavez explained that he made this decision because, “I am always thinking about how to improve the team, its efficiency and its quality, while fighting against bureaucratism. None of these ministries implies the creation of more bureaucracy.”

New Aló Presidente Program

Chavez’s announcements and the interview took place during his weekly television program Aló Presidente, which had been off the air for the past two months. The break was because the show was being reorganized, explained Chavez and presented a more dynamic format, in which Chavez would walk around more and give invited guests and callers more time to talk. The program is now also divided into various segments, such as an interview segment, a discussion segment, and calls from the public.