Venezuela: Haven For Terrorists?
As the world does nothing, Venezuela aids the Colombian narcoterrorists known as FARC, which is an act of war. In effect, Chavez looks the other way as some 1,500 drug-dealing FARC guerrillas use Venezuela as a safe haven. Colombia wants it stopped.
These facts have been known for years, so it’s likely that, as President Alvaro Uribe prepares to leave office, he wants this for the record — perhaps to build an international court case. But Uribe also may be trying to warn the world that narcoterror could spill over regional borders.
There are 80 easily verifiable terrorist camps inside Venezuela, which the OAS declined to investigate. But besides harboring terrorists and five top FARC leaders, there’s a disturbing sense that FARC has penetrated Venezuela’s government at the highest levels — which makes Mexico’s vicious war against drug lords look tame by comparison.
Three Venezuelan officials designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2008 as low-level kingpins for helping FARC have achieved high positions in Chavez’s regime.
General Henry Rangel Silva was promoted to Strategic Operational Commander of the Bolivarian Armed Forces, according to the reliable blog site Caracas Gringo, a command second only to Chavez.
Former Interior Minister Ramon Rodriguez-Chacin, whose FARC ties date to the 1980s, claims to be dying of cancer. But his top lieutenant, Col. Miguel Rodriguez Torres, now heads Sebin, Chavez’s new spy service. Meanwhile, the third of the narco-triumvirate, Gen. Hugo Carvajal, remains head of Venezuelan military intelligence.
With a crew like that, it’s no surprise that Venezuela permits 80 FARC camps inside its own borders.
But FARC’s presence is even more widespread in Venezuela than that. For instance, FARC controls 60% of Colombia’s cocaine trade, and U.S. officials say that drug flights out of Venezuela have never been higher.
FARC also kidnaps for ransom. That’s become common, not just at the Colombian border, but across the Venezuelan llano, farmers in Yaracuy state have told IBD. They say the only people they can sell land or cattle to in Chavez’s atmosphere of Marxist expropriation are well-armed FARC thugs, whose land likely won’t be confiscated.
Meanwhile, Chavez has threatened to cut off oil to the US. Here’s why he won’t:
Hugo Chávez oil threats: Why Chávez won’t cut off oil to the US
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez threatened to cut off oil to the US on Sunday. The latest Chávez oil threat comes amid a rising diplomatic spat with neighboring Colombia, a staunch US ally in the region.
Many had hoped that as Juan Manuel Santos takes over the presidency in Colombia on Aug. 7, the relationship between Colombia and Venezuela could begin to heal, even though Mr. Santos served as defense minister at the time of the Ecuadorean raid. Now it seems the hurdles are higher.
Chávez cancels trip to Cuba
On Sunday, Chavez said he had new intelligence, which he did not identify, saying the threat of an attack from Colombia was higher than ever. He canceled a trip Monday to Cuba, where his allies Raúl Castro and Fidel Castro are celebrating Revolution Day today, to address the threat, he said.
Ms. Cardozo says she believes there is no real threat, and that his motivation is to stir up nationalist sentiment ahead of crucial legislative elections in September and deflect attention from economic woes in the country.
“As president, Chávez always does this,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York. “He is trying to turn a very significant accusation against his country into a win for himself domestically.”
The regional group of South American nations called UNASUR will be meeting in Ecuador soon to try to resolve the conflict, but the US is likely to stay on the sidelines, says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington.
“Chávez is going through a predictable scenario …. Of marching up the hill and then marching down again,” says Mr. Birns. “Chávez has always indicated that the oil weapon is in his quiver, but … his threat is more bark than bite.”