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Friday, February 8, 2008

HRF: Venezuela's Charade

Venezuela's charades
By Thor Halvorssen
February 7, 2008

The State Department and every European government designated the FARC, a rebel army in Colombia, a foreign terrorist organization. Yet last month Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praised the FARC as a "real army... an insurgent force with a political project." Mr. Chavez was cheered repeatedly by the Venezuelan congress when he insisted that the FARC must be "acknowledged" and called upon foreign governments to cease referring to the FARC as terrorists.

The FARC terrorist group has been fighting the democratic government of Colombia for more than 40 years. Founded as the armed wing of the Colombian Communist Party, this 16,000-strong terrorist force recruits children and funds its activities with billions of dollars from the cocaine trade. Its explicit objective is to take Colombia by force — it has kidnapped, extorted and executed thousands of innocent civilians, bombed buildings, assassinated hundreds of political leaders, and, with two other local terrorist organizations, have turned Colombia into one of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world. All in all, FARC has caused the deaths of more than 100,000 people.

Mr. Chavez has long sympathized with some of the world's most prolific human rights violators — from his proclaimed "brotherhood" with Saddam Hussein and kind words for the Taliban, to the close economic and political ties he sustains with the leaders of Iran and Cuba. Much of this is international demagoguery to promote himself as the world's leading anti-American. But the support Mr. Chavez and his government provide the FARC terrorists, support he has denied for nine years, is the clearest example of why he is a threat to human rights in the region.

The documentable ties between Venezuela and the FARC date back to August of 1999 — just months into the Chavez presidency. Leaked letters signed by Ramon Rodriguez, a Chavez aide, revealed that the government had offered fuel, money and other support to the FARC. Mr. Chavez also ordered another henchman, Ignacio Arcaya (who later became Venezuelan ambassador in Washington) to give cash gifts to the FARC. Messrs. Arcaya, Rodriguez and Chavez denied the allegations despite eyewitnesses to the conversations.


Check full article here: Human Rights Foundation

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