WASHINGTON — Mexico's attorney general on Wednesday disputed claims that Mexican university students who were killed alongside a South American rebel leader in a recent raid were in the jungle receiving bomb training from guerrillas.
More questions than answers remain, however, in the aftermath of a March 1 cross-border incursion by Colombia's military into Ecuador, where at least 17 people including Colombian guerrilla leader Raul Reyes were killed.
Reyes was a chief international spokesman and the second-ranking commander of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Latin America's oldest guerrilla movement, known by its Spanish initials FARC, which the Bush administration labels a terrorist organization.
Ecuador's government said that at least four Mexicans were killed alongside Reyes and one university student was wounded and captured.
Colombia's vice president said last week that the Mexican students were receiving "training" from the FARC, and some Colombian newspaper reports suggested that training was in bomb-making, information that they said came from the captured Mexican woman, 26-year-old Lucia Morett.
In an interview with reporters Wednesday in Washington, Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora challenged the Colombian accounts. He said that an unspecified number of Mexican university students were in Ecuador for a meeting of sympathizers of Venezuela's anti-American president, Hugo Chavez.
Chavez leads the self-proclaimed Bolivarian Revolution, which combines a vision of socialism with a shared Latin American identity like that espoused by Simon Bolivar, a contemporary of George Washington and a founding father of several South American nations.
"What we know now for a fact is these particular individuals were participating in a congress of the Bolivarian movement, and they, through that, were visiting this (FARC) camp at the border with Colombia," Medina Mora said.
Less clear is who got them there.
Newspaper reports link their arrival at Ecuador's border with Bolivia to a naturalized Mexican citizen named Dagoberto Diaz Orgaz. The newspapers, quoting Mexican intelligence, said Diaz was spotted in the Ecuadorean capital of Quito last week near the hospital where Morett, the Mexican survivor, is recovering.
"I don't have much information on Dagoberto except for the fact that he is a former Cuban national who got Mexican citizenship and who is alleged to be active in links between groups sympathetic to the FARC in Mexico and this organization in Colombia," Medina Mora said.
He confirmed that his office is looking into any crimes committed against or by Mexicans abroad. He described the probe as part of a broader look at whether the FARC has forged ties with Mexican drug cartels.
Cuba-born Diaz is of particular interest, because Cuba has long been a supporter of the FARC, providing refuge to its leadership. More recently, Cuba has become deeply aligned with Venezuela's Chavez, who's been hostile to the United States and its closest Latin ally, Mexico.
Mexicans are asking whether and why a Cuban-born FARC sympathizer has ties to their country's biggest public university, and whether the involvement of Mexican students amounts to sympathy or training.
After the raid, the Colombian government released what it said were files copied off a laptop of Reyes' that it had seized. The files, which McClatchy obtained, detail what appears to be financial support from Chavez to the FARC.
McClatchy reported Monday that the Bush administration is reviewing whether this information warrants placing Venezuela on a list of state sponsors of terrorism, which includes nations such as Iran and North Korea.
A video purporting to show the final images of Reyes is on YouTube. In it, Reyes addresses what he says are visiting sympathizers who'd come to Ecuador.
"United, we're invincible. The fight against imperialism is essential on our continent," he tells the students, urging them to reject "all that the White House unleashes."
He sympathizes with the plight of immigrants in the United States, not mentioning that President Bush tried unsuccessfully to overhaul immigration law.
(Ordonez, of The Charlotte Observer, reported from Mexico City.)
ON THE WEB
The Raul Reyes video.