CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Hundreds of leftists gathered in Venezuela's capital have set plans for a regional movement in Latin America and are expressing support for insurgent groups like the rebels in Colombia.
Some 950 people from 26 nations agreed to form the Bolivarian Continental Movement, named after South American independence hero Simon Bolivar, said Zenaida Tahhan, who leads a chapter in Venezuela, said Wednesday after the conference wrapped up.es
Participants included supporters of leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Communist Party members as well as activists from other parts of the globe. Tahhan said some came from as far away as Turkey and Australia.
Attendees said they agreed on causes promoted by Chavez, including resisting what he calls U.S. "imperialism."
Yul Jabour, a member of the Venezuelan Communist Party, said the movement also agrees with the ideals of "any insurgent movement" — such as the leftist rebels in neighboring Colombia.
During the opening session Monday, organizers read a message attributed to Alfonso Cano, commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, in which he saluted participants and called for the creation of a "continental political movement" to counter what he warned is a growing military threat from the "U.S. empire" in the region.
Colombia's government on Wednesday called the release of statements by FARC leaders an "affront to democracy" and asked Venezuela's government to clarify its position towards group sympathetic to terrorism and organized crime.
A foreign ministry statement said the movement's support for FARC leaders is equivalent to "supporting acts such as kidnappings, assassations, car bombs and atrocities against the civilian population."
Those at the gathering condemned Colombia's recent agreement allowing the U.S. military to use more of its bases — a stance shared by Chavez, who contends the deal poses a threat his government. Colombia says the agreement will be used only to help it fight drug trafficking and guerrillas inside its territory.
Chavez has denied supporting the Colombian rebels, but the guerrillas express an ideological affinity for the Venezuelan leader.
Colombian rebels have often used border areas of Venezuela as a haven to resupply and treat their wounded in recent years, creating friction with Colombia's U.S.-allied government, which is battling the guerrillas in a conflict that also involves outlawed right-wing paramilitary groups.