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Monday, March 10, 2008

US Looks into Terror List for Venezuela

The investigation is the first step in a process that could see Venezuela join North Korea, Cuba, Sudan, Syria and Iran as countries that have been designated by the State Department as supporters of terrorism.

U.S. laws give leeway to what economic activity is subject to sanctions, but in the extreme, U.S. and many foreign businesses would be forced to sever links with one of the world's largest producers of oil, severely affecting Venezuela's oil trade.

The legal review comes after Colombia captured four computers belonging to a FARC guerrilla leader in a March 1 raid. The documents suggest the Venezuelan government was in the process of providing $300 million in assistance to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which U.S. and Colombian officials call a ''narco-terrorist'' group but Chávez considers a legitimate insurgency.

A senior U.S. administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the subject, said government lawyers had been asked to clarify ''what goes into effect in terms of prohibitions, or prohibited activities'' with the ''state sponsor'' designation.

U.S. officials are reluctant to predict if the FARC computer discoveries will lead to sanctions, noting U.S. investigators must first corroborate their veracity.

If the documents are shown to be true -- the official said the publicly released ones so far looked genuine -- then "I think it will beg the question of whether or not Venezuela, given Chávez's interactions with the FARC, has . . . crossed the threshold of state sponsor of terror.''

The official said the lawyers had not yet returned with a response.

''It immediately imposes [restrictions] on the abilities of U.S. companies to work in Venezuela,'' said James Lewis, a former State Department arms trafficking expert now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

U.S. companies would be "forbidden from operating there, forbidden from receiving any money from Venezuela. It would make it very hard for Venezuela to sell oil to the U.S.. All the arrangements we have now where Venezuelan oil is routinely sent to the United States would have to stop.''

Relations of Chavez with terrorism not only limits to FARC. In Venezuela is well known the presence of Hezbollah members who have been training indigenous tribes in the extreme north west side of Venezuela at Guajira Peninsula, in the border with Colombia. Is was also well commented that members from Al-Qaida would have been or had been staying undercover at Margarita Island, a place well known for the big Muslim community.

And that's not all, The Jewish Institute for National Affairs, JINSA, reported this today:

JINSA Report #754
Striking Back Across the Border in South America

One of the clearest asymmetries in the war against terrorists and the states that harbor and support them is that Western countries believe borders are sacrosanct, while terrorists and their sponsors do not. Syria and Iran supply Hezbollah across the Lebanon border. The PKK crosses from Iraq into Turkey. Hamas shoots rockets at Israel and smuggles arms from Egypt. Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia have all permitted irregular forces to cross from their countries into Iraq. Taliban and al Qaeda cross into Afghanistan from Pakistan. Efforts at defense against these incursions are internationally suspect and retaliation generally condemned, at least by the UN.

South of our border, terrorist organizations and state sponsors combine in places with weak governments. A variety of Islamist organizations, including Hamas and Hezbollah, are active the in the uncontrolled area between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay known as the Tri-Border Area. Venezuela has given identity documents that can be used for Venezuelan passports and even American visas to people from Syria, Pakistan, Egypt and Lebanon. Saudi Arabia finances the construction of mosques and Islamic centers in several countries. Free trade zones make travel between countries easy.

Not all of the mess is related to Middle Eastern activities. Democratic Colombia has been plagued for years by FARC, a vicious drug cartel dealing in kidnapping and massacres of civilian opponents. Designated a terrorist organization by the United States and Europe, FARC had based one of its top commanders in neighboring Ecuador.

Colombia struck back this weekend - killing a top FARC commander and about 20 of his operatives in a raid on a base about a mile inside Ecuador. No Colombian forces remained in Ecuador after the raid. The Washington Post reported:
Senior Colombian officials say a laptop recovered at the FARC camp contained evidence that Mr. Chávez had recently given the group $300 million and had financial links with the terrorists dating to his own failed coup against a previous Venezuelan government in 1992. Colombia said Mr. Correa’s government (Ecuador) had been negotiating with Mr. Reyes (the FARC commander) about replacing Ecuadorian military officers who might object to his use of the country as a base. In other words, both Mr. Correa and Mr. Chávez were backing an armed movement with an established record of terrorism and drug trafficking against the democratically elected government of their neighbor.

That makes Venezuela and Ecuador state sponsors of terrorism in our book, providing the attributes of statehood to non-state actors. They should be no more immune from retaliation than Iran, Syria, Pakistan or the Palestinian Authority should be.

Unfortunately, The Organization of American States denounced Colombia’s defense against the FARC and calling the raid, “a violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ecuador and of principles of international law.” The OAS has learned nothing from the Middle East’s experience with transnational terrorism. It is Ecuador that permitted the violation of Colombia’s sovereignty, and Ecuador that must either fix the problem or expect the legitimate response of a country that declines to be the victim.


And also, I think you already read this I posted on Highlights section:

United States-Mexican border is experiencing an alarming rise in drug-human and Terrorist smuggling activity

The federal government acknowledges that the United States-Mexican border region has been experiencing an alarming rise in the level of criminal cartel activity, including drug and human smuggling, which has placed significant additional burdens on Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies...

...It is a fact that members of the terrorist group Hezbollah have already entered the United States across the Southwest border. U.S. military and intelligence officials believe that Venezuela is emerging as a staging hub of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere. The Venezuelan government is believed to be issuing identity documents that are subsequently used to obtain a U.S. visa for terrorists to enter this country illegally.

Read this full and very interesting investigative report from Michael Webster at Borderfire Report

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