Washington’s ability to manage multiple challenges continues to be tested in the Western Hemisphere, where Venezuela’s anti-American leader Hugo Chavez is working to destabilize the region and support international terrorist organizations. The Washington Post’s Juan Forero reported on May 20:
Now, based on documents and witness testimony, Chávez is facing fresh accusations that his government has gone well beyond assisting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Documents seized from two subversive groups, along with information provided by former Colombian guerrillas, suggest that Venezuela facilitated training sessions here between the FARC and ETA, a separatist group in Spain that uses assassinations and bombings in its effort to win independence for the northern Basque region.
Spanish authorities and victims of the Basque terrorist group ETA view Chavez as a “sponsor of terrorism.” General Douglas Fraser of the U.S. Southern Command observed on April 28 that the relationship between the Chavez government and the FARC has been documented over a period of years. “It’s financial support,” stated Gen. Fraser, “it’s enabling their capacity from a logistics standpoint. My understanding is that that continues.”
In a recent letter to Secretary of State Clinton, Republican Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and George LeMieux (R-FL) carefully reviewed the mounting evidence of Chavez’s terror links and called on the Obama Administration to conduct a thorough investigation and full disclosure of information and intelligence regarding Chavez’s terror ties.
As the U.S. and Iran enter a new phase of confrontation over Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon, Chavez vowed to continue the fight “against imperialism” [read the U.S.] alongside the Islamic Republic of Iran. Meanwhile Chavez faces mounting economic difficulties at home and a potential for genuine political opposition in the September 26 legislative elections. Domestic pressures could trigger further radicalization and violence as Chavez seeks to cling to power.
It is time for the Obama Administration to follow the evidence and take the necessary step of placing Venezuela on the state sponsors of terrorism list.