Up to now, I have not written much about links between the Venezuelan Government and terrorist groups. Much has been said about possible links between Chavez and the Colombian FARC or other Latin American terrorist groups. Or the charges against the Chavez Government by a former pilot of the Presidential plane that he was present when a million dollars was sent to Osama Bin Laden. But I have never seen much proof of this and thus, I have believed there is sufficiently going on locally, which is clear and transparent, that I do not have to resort to talking about inferences or evidence about which I know little about. Hugo Chavez has always been sympathetic to terrorist causes, but that does not make him a collaborator until proven so. In fact, he has publicly expressed this sympathy for terrorist groups and was initially non-committal when the World Trade Center was attacked. He was also the first Head of State to visit Saddam Hussein in Iraq eight years after the Kuwaiti invasion. (In fact, he once told the international press:” How was I supposed to know that no Head of State had visited Baghdad since the war, if I had known it, I would not have done it!”). Chavez did write a very supportive letter to Venezuelan terrorist Carlos “The Jackal” not long after his inauguration.
But I can not ignore the events of the last two weeks and, in particular, the aggressiveness of the Colombian Government towards Hugo Chavez and Venezuela. Or the statements by US Gen. James Hill that Latin America may be becoming an attractive spot for terrorist groups to relocate, as reported in the Financial Times. (No link, I have no subscription and the article is now two days old).
Last weekend, Colombian police reportedly told the Venezuelan Army (note the subtlety, the Army, not the Government, nor the police) about a truck carrying one thousand kilos of explosives towards Colombia, supposedly to blow up a bridge in the highway that joins the two countries. Now, you have to understand that the Venezuelan Government blames the opposition for everything, calling them terrorists. But in this case, those detained have not been referred to as terrorists by any Venezuelan Government official yet, as if two thousand pounds of explosives was simply candy. But Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was quite explicit and certainly not very diplomatic when he said that “he was ready to bring back terrorists that attack Colombia, whether they are in Venezuela or somewhere else”. Uribe insisted that terrorists are planning their attacks and hiding in Venezuela and he went even further saying that “the Venezuelan Government through actions or omissions has converted Venezuelan territory in safe haven for irregular groups”.
All of this has met with swift criticism from various local sources. Former intelligence Head Eliezer Otaiza said that this is a preconceived plan to link the Venezuelan Government to terrorism, saying that as many as 13 foreign intelligence groups are operating within the Venezuelan borders to create a confrontation with Colombia (Otaiza has no official position in the Venezuelan Government right now). And Venezuelan Foreign Minsiter Chaderton said today there is a “massive” conspiracy against the Venezuelan Government, including in the conspiracy the letter written by US representatives asking Secretary of State Powell to invoke the Interamerican Democratic Charter of the OAS. Meanwhile, Gen. Manuel Rosendo, who only a year ago was a close Chavez loyalist, said today that Venezuelan policy towards terrorism suppresses the military defense of the country and he questions that the Army has done so little or said so little about the terrorists attacks on or from Venezuelan soil. Thus, something is clearly up. It is hard to believe that US and Colombian criticism is part of a conspiracy, least of all when three large bombs exploded in Venezuela in the last two weeks and the huge truckload of explosives was found within our territory. I don’t believe in coincidences and there are too many floating in the air on this issue.