Spain hits back in growing row with Venezuela over ETA
Spain hit back Friday in an escalating war of words with Venezuela over suspected members of the armed Basque separatist group ETA living in the South American country.
Interior Minister and deputy premier Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba described as "unacceptable" a statement issued from Caracas on Thursday that called on Madrid to stop associating Venezuela with ETA.
"There exists a profound malaise in the Spanish government concerning the statement," published by Venezuela's foreign ministry, said Rubalcaba, who was specifically named in the diplomatic broadside.
The statement contained "accusations that are unacceptable and injustifiable," Rubalcaba told reporters.
The row has developed against a background of persistent attempts by Spain to pursue ETA suspects based in Venezuela.
In March, a Spanish judge issued 12 international arrest warrants against suspected ETA members living in Venezuela, as well as members of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) suspected of working with ETA.
Last week, it requested the extradition of Arturo Cubillas, a former ETA activist.
But Cubillas, as well as being a Spanish national, has also obtained Venezuelan citizenship and the country's attorney general Luisa Ortega has already said that for this reason he cannot be extradited.
In what appeared to be an oblique reference to the Cubillas case, Rubalcaba said Friday that Spain "wanted its collaboration with Venezuela on terrorism matters to improve."
Thursday's statement from Venezuela's foreign ministry offered little prospect of that.
It accused Spain's politicians of "political cowardice" and accused the "sensationalist Spanish press" of waging a "violent campaign of psychological terrorism" over the issue.
Cubillas arrived in Venezuela in late 1989, part of a group of 11 ETA members given political asylum under an agreement between the Spanish and Venezuelan governments.
He was given a senior post in the agriculture ministry during the administration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in 2005.
ETA is blamed for the deaths of 829 people in its four-decade campaign of bombings and shootings to force the creation of a Basque homeland in northern Spain and southwestern France.
© 2010 AFP