From the day he came to power, Hugo Chavez has been working to create a Marxist, anti-American bloc in Latin America. Chief among his methods is supporting terrorist groups, including the FARC in Colombia. Now, Colombian President Uribe is demanding that the Organization of American States take action against him, bringing the tension between Colombia and Venezuela to a new height.
Colombia is trying to stir up international pressure on Chavez by releasing undeniable proof that his government is supporting the FARC terrorists. At an Organization of American States meeting on July 22, the Colombian ambassador showed satellite photos proving that 39 camps used by the FARC and the ELN are in Venezuela and are being used to train and deploy terrorists carrying out attacks in Colombia. Ambassador Luis Alfonso Hoyos showed video of a top FARC leader named Luciano Marin Arango living a life of luxury in Venezuela with his two dogs enjoying Cuban cigars. President Uribe has gone so far as to say the government knows right where he is.
The Colombian government says that numerous other top FARC leaders including the group’s Foreign Minister are living safely in Venezuela. A total of about 1,500 FARC members are in Venezuela, along with the ELN’s leader. Altogether, the detailed presentation about Venezuela’s status as a state sponsor of terrorism lasted an hour and a half.
Alek Boyd, a Venezuelan activist In London and founder of VCrisis.com told FrontPage that President Uribe, who will soon leave office, is making the disclosures “simply because Colombia can afford it.” He dismisses speculation that Uribe is concerned that his successor, Juan Manuel Santos, won’t be as tough on Venezuela, noting that Santos masterminded a surprise attack on a FARC camp in Ecuador that killed the group’s leader in March 2008.
“President Alvaro Uribe has milked the relationship with Venezuela until this point. While Colombia was selling billions of dollars a year to Venezuela, none of this FARC information was made public,” he said. He added that “the trade balance between the two countries being at its lowest levels in years” means the Colombian government can confront Chavez “without having to brunt the economic and political consequences.”
The Colombian ambassador implored the OAS to demand immediate inspections of the terrorist camps in Venezuela, offering to provide the precise coordinates of their locations. The Chavez government reacted by cutting off diplomatic relations with Colombia and in typical Marxist fashion, blamed the country’s instability on class struggle, meaning capitalism. Chavez also claimed that the U.S. and Colombia were planning to attack his country and threatened to end oil sales to the U.S.
Alek Boyd told FrontPage that Chavez sponsors terrorists as a way of waging war on Colombia because his military is no match for that of his enemies.
“Venezuela’s army is notoriously inefficient, utterly corrupt, has not been involved in conflict for more than 100 years, and is basically useless, despite the billions that Hugo Chavez has spent in military acquisitions,” Boyd said.
The lengthy case made by Colombia follows a May 25 letter from a group of senators asking the State Department for information about Venezuela’s collusion with Iran, including the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, and support of Hezbollah and FARC. The letter referenced an incident on November 3, 2009 where the Israelis prevented a vessel that stopped in Venezuela from delivering 500 tons of arms including rockets to Hezbollah, showing that Chavez’s support of the Shiite terrorist group is going beyond safe haven. A Spanish author has discovered that six Venezuelan camps near Caracas used by the FARC and ELN are also being used to train members of Hezbollah. The journalist, who possesses videotapes and eyewitness testimony, personally met Hezbollah members in Venezuela undercover, as well as members of Hamas. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Al-Qods Force is assembling a network in Venezuela. Chavez, despite being run by a non-Muslim Marxist, is now a sponsor of Islamist terror.
In October, a bipartisan group from Congress introduced a resolution calling on the State Department to label Venezuela as a state sponsor of terrorism. They recognize that the alliances Chavez has built with North Korea, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and the FARC threatens the U.S. and isn’t just a Latin American issue. His regime is involved in drug trafficking and the FARC has become business partners with Al-Qaeda in West Africa. Both Hezbollah and the FARC have a growing relationship with the Mexican drug lords.
Luckily, Venezuela is suffering from its own economic problems and internal stability that could be used as leverage against Chavez. A top army general has resigned to protest Venezuela’s transformation into a Cuban satellite, revealing that Cuban personnel are helping manage the country, including the military and the electrical, communications and oil industries. He also was concerned about Chavez’s creation of a civilian militia, reportedly being based on the model of Iran’s Basiji force, and the mandated chants of “Socialist homeland or death” soldiers must now say.
The economic problems Chavez faces also makes it unlikely he’ll carry out his threat of suspending oil sales to the U.S. His country lost $3.8 billion in foreign investment in 2009 after nationalizing foreign companies. Inflation is skyrocketing and the country has decreased from selling 3.5 million barrels of oil per day in 1998 to 2.5 million barrels per day. Workers in the oil industry have gone on strike after cronyism led to their firing, and things have gotten so bad that Chavez is allowing oil companies he nationalized for being “imperialists” to operate again. Power outages have become a major problem. In February, as Chavez gave a televised speech condemning President Bush, the power went out.
Chavez is also losing support at home. In December 2007, a referendum that would have allowed him to run for re-election indefinitely was defeated. In December 2008, he suffered major losses in regional elections. The problems at home and the reaction against him in Latin America motivated the _Washington Post_’s Jackson Diehl to declare that “Hugo Chavez’s ‘socialism for the 21st century’ has been defeated and is on its way to collapse.”
He is reacting to his political misfortunes by moving more quickly to vanquish democracy in his country. An arrest warrant has been issued for the head of the country’s last independent television station. Chavez now controls 72 television stations, 400 radio stations and 18 newspapers, according to Alvaro Vargas Llosa.
In the face of Venezuelan support for drug trafficking, terrorist groups and open anti-Americanism, President Obama’s top Latin America advisor at the National Security Council, Dan Restrepo, insists that Obama “does not see Venezuela as a challenge to the U.S. national security. There is no Cold War nor Hot War. Those things belong to the past.”
Congress must pressure the Obama Administration to open its eyes to the threat posed by the Chavez regime in Venezuela. The U.S. should immediately support its Colombian allies demanding inspections of the FARC terrorist camps and openly consider adding Venezuela to the list of state sponsors of terrorism if Chavez refuses. In a world where the U.S. does not enough allies, the U.S. shouldn’t turn its back on one that is on the frontline standing up against an aspiring dictator that is supporting our enemies.
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