U.S. Review of Venezuela’s Inclusion on the State-Sponsor of Terrorism List or Haven Designation, Warranted
Last week Colombia scored three significant victories by striking hard against the FARC-People’s Army terrorist group, yet you would not think so if you had focused on most news reports of the matter. First, the FARC has been dealt a potentially fatal leadership blow. The death of two high-ranking FARC officials in one week sends a clear message to the FARC that Colombia can, and will, reach its highest levels of command and control. President Alvaro Uribe’s popularity rating is at an all time high. Kudos to U.S. agencies that support the Colombians efforts against terrorism, drug traffickers, and financial crimes. Expect more.
Second, and probably not expected, was the goldmine of information that was recovered from the FARC terrorist camp located a few meters from the Colombian border in the jungles of Ecuador. Several computers seized by Colombian authorities allegedly include letters from senior-ranking FARC officials to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, invoices for weapon sales and transfers, documentation that the FARC was involved in the purchase or transfer of raw uranium, among other things. If authenticated, the information treasure trove clear evidence that the FARC has been receiving all kinds of international support from within and outside of the Western Hemisphere. Several Committees of the U.S. Congress have requested the documentation.
Finally, the Colombian operations last week made life a whole lot more uncomfortable for the likes of leftist leaders such as Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez and Ecuador’s Rafael Correa. If the Colombians had not found the computers, the operation in Colombia/Ecuador border jungle area may have unfolded in a much different manner, possibly violently (yet still resulting in a Colombian victory no less). But Colombia basically forced Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, Brazil, Nicaragua, and all others who sympathize or support the FARC to take a public position. The choice? Explain why they were helping a terrorist group do such things as buy arms or uranium or condemn terrorism and join Colombia in defeating the terrorist group. In typical Latin America fashion, the anti-U.S. powers found a third way, a diplomatic and public relations solution to save face.
The information on the computers limited response options for the leaders of Ecuador and Venezuela. Troop movements and rhetoric aside, Hugo Chavez and Rafael Correa realized that there was no easy way out of this public relations and diplomatic disaster for them. They got caught supporting a terrorist group; it was best to lower the tensions and move on to undermine Colombia another day. They tried to do the latter no less. In fact, the media in the U.S. fell for this public relations effort hook, line, and sinker. With the possible exception of Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, and even the Washington Post, it was Colombia that was portrayed as the bad guys throughout this process.
The debates about this incident at the Organization of American States (OAS) reminds us that the institution is in much need of reform. Only in Latin America does a winner get portrayed and attacked by neighbors as a loser in this manner. In many ways, it is exactly what happens to Israel when it acts in the Middle East to defend herself from terrorists.
Washington insiders know that this was a diplomatic two-step. Colombia and the U.S. struck the terrorist and won. If Venezuela, Cuba, and Ecuador want to support terrorists, that is their problem. They shall pay the consequences for doing so since, in the end, we will win and their leaders will have to account for what they have done. Yet, it was clear last week from the spectacle at the OAS that it is weak and is clearly not focused on the overall mission of that body.
As far as the U.S. response, the U.S. should consider a review as to whether Venezuela should be added to the state sponsor of terrorism list or the terrorist haven designation. It has been known for several years that Venezuela has been supplying aid and comfort to the FARC alongside the border with Colombia. The same holds for Ecuador and we should advise our Ecuadorian colleagues that, in light of new evidence, the time has come for them to reconsider our lease at the Manta facility that support regional interdiction efforts. Recent events have the potential to strike a lethal political blow to the FARC and increase regional stability. We should explore the aforementioned designation, and other means, to ensure that this cathartic moment is not wasted, relegated to the diplomatic back channels of the OAS, or give time to the FARC and its supporters in the region a chance to re-group.
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