The Smoking Laptop

The AP has a rundown this morning on a laptop, reportedly belonging to slain FARC leader Raul Reyes, that may prove massive and covert support for the Colombian rebel movement by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. If the documents in the computer are authentic, they also hint at U.S. efforts to intervene in a prisoner exchange with the FARC, which captured three U.S. military contractors in 2003 after their plane crashed in Colombia.

Colombian troops captured the computer after a raid into Ecuador over the weekend; Reyes and 23 of his compatriots in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) died. Among the more fascinating revelations in the documents and correspondence stored on the computer are:

Chavez gave $300 million to the rebel group–a staggering sum, and about half the amount of military aid that the United States gives overtly to the Colombian government;

Last year, a FARC emissary to Venezuela was preparing to receive individuals named as “Jim and Tucker,” apparent references to Americans, in order to “hear the proposal of the gringos” regarding the prisoner release;

Said gringos, working through the Ecuadorian government, wanted to discuss “various issues” with the FARC;

And (get this), two days before he was killed, Reyes wrote to his compatriots that the Americans “say the new president of their country will be (Barack) Obama,” and that he rejects George W. Bush’s free trade agreement with Colombia and its military aid program.

The AP story lists a number of other revelations and does a good job putting this potential smoking gun in context. If the United States had evidence that Chavez was massively supporting FARC, which the Bush administration considers a terrorist group, it would give the president a huge public advantage in his attempts to discredit Chavez. Based on my discussions with some people more knowledgeable about this, it would also help undermine Chavez’s reputation in the region, something that the administration has been hoping–trying–to do.