CALLING A STATE SPONSOR A STATE SPONSOR

June 7, 2010

This month a dozen U.S. senators fired the opening salvo in what promises to be an aggressive oversight campaign to get to the bottom of Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez's support for terrorism.  A May 25 letter challenges Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to explain what the administration knows about Venezuela's support for a sprawling network of terrorist states and groups, including Iran, Hezbollah, Colombian "narcoterrorists," Cuba and Syria. 

Rallied by John Ensign (R-Nev.) and George LeMieux (R-Fla.), the senators are asking that Secretary Clinton explain what the administration knows about alleged arms shipments, high-level contacts and financial dealings linking Venezuela to a rogue's gallery of, well, rogues. The detailed letter signals that the senators already know more than the administration has been willing or able to substantiate about dictator Chavez's collaboration with anti-American terror groups and hostile regimes, says Roger F. Noriega, former ambassador to the Organization of American States. 

Among Chavez's notorious actions the senators cite: 

  • The provision of "sanctuary" and the "flow of guns and money" -- including the provision of portable missiles, antitank rockets, and other weaponry -- to Colombian guerrillas.
  • Complicity in the illegal narcotics trade that fuels terrorism -- including the burgeoning traffic from Venezuelan territory to west and north Africa.
  • The "presence and activities of Hezbollah inside Venezuela" and a November 2009 shipment of Russian weapons from a Venezuelan arms cache to that group.
  • "Extensive support of the Castro regime in Cuba" and Chavez's reliance on Castro henchman Ramiro Valdes to repress internal opponents. 

More examples: 

  • Possible support for "Iran's covert nuclear enrichment program" in exchange for Iran's providing "nuclear knowhow" to Chavez.
  • Venezuela's delivery of gasoline to Iran and its help for Iran to evade international sanctions.
  • Suspicious air traffic and lax immigration controls on Caracas-Damascus-Tehran airline flights. 

This stepped-up congressional oversight is bound to build on the growing body of evidence pointing to Chavez's singular role in supporting terrorism and related criminality.  The Obama administration's decision to pull the trigger on Venezuela may hinge on whether the United States can afford to forfeit petroleum exports from that South American country, says Noriega. 

Source: Roger F. Noriega," Calling a State Sponsor a State Sponsor," The American, May 29, 2010. 

For text:

http://american.com/archive/2010/may/calling-a-state-sponsor-a-state-sponsor 

 

Browse more articles on Government Issues