The capture of laptops in a raid on a FARC camp has yielded plenty of intelligence that ties Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez to the terrorists, Der Spiegel reports this afternoon. Chavez has opened Venezuela as a refuge to FARC while Colombia battles the Marxist terrorists and has tried to elevate their prestige in the region. At one point, Chavez tried to arrange a meeting between himself, FARC leader Manual Marulanda, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, and Bolivian president Evo Morales:
Reyes’ posthumous electronic correspondence reveals that Chavez had planned a meeting with legendary FARC leader Manual Marulanda, and he wanted to invite Nicaragua’s head of state Daniel Ortega and Bolivian President Evo Morales. Another e-mail refers to a “dossier” of over $300 million for the FARC. The government in the Venezuelan capital Caracas also apparently offered the rebels a share in the country’s oil business and promised decommissioned arms from the country’s own army. …
Chavez allegedly opened up Venezuela to FARC as a refuge. Intelligence officials in Colombia maintain that Chavez is planning an ideological and military alliance with the FARC “to neutralize the military as a democratic institution and merge it with the militia movement.”
In effect, the Venezuelan leader has been working for years to create parallel power structures within his own country. A failed coup six years ago only served to heighten his distrust of democratic institutions. Chavez had arms distributed to 100,000 civilians, who were to stand at his side in the event of an “invasion.” A large number of slums in Caracas are now patrolled by heavily armed paramilitary units.
Colombian guerrillas from the FARC reportedly also train the pro-Chavez militia that operates near the border. Intelligence sources report that there are seven FARC advance patrols operating within Venezuela. They supervise the smuggling of arms and cocaine.
The news gets worse from there. Chavez has also jumped into the drug trade to keep FARC viable. He uses government resources to promote and protect the narcotics business that funds the terrorists and keeps them from complete collapse. One drug lord called Venezuela the Mecca of South American trafficking after his own arrest last year, and the captured documents corroborate his accounts.
Chavez has tried to distract the West and Latin America with high-profile negotiations to free FARC hostages. Instead of gaining releases, however, Chavez tried to use the negotiations to inject himself into Colombian military policy, which Alvaro Uribe angrily rejected a few weeks before the raid on the Ecuadoran FARC camp. Chavez wants to play both sides in order to protect an organization that has increasingly become his proxy against Colombia and the United States.
In that light, the retrieval of 66 pounds of uranium has to be viewed as a serious escalation by FARC and Chavez. The uranium was not weapons-grade, so it posed little risk of nuclear terrorism. However, Der Spiegel reports that the material could have been used to manufacture armor-penetrating ammunition, which would have had serious consequences for the Colombian military in its efforts to defeat FARC. The capture of the laptops kept FARC from exploiting its uranium, but it could point to a supply source in Venezuela — which would be very worrisome to the US.
The point will soon come when Washington has to decide whether to put Venezuela on the terrorist-supporting nations list. Chavez certainly has qualified for that status, and the confrontation over his support for regional terrorists appears to just be a matter of time.