Ambassador Álvarez: “We’re happy that at least one U.S. official was honest enough to admit the truth and put to rest any myths about Venezuela’s links to terrorist groups.”
In a hearing before the U.S. Senate on March 11, 2010, General Douglas Fraser, head of the U.S. Southern Command, verified that no links exist between Venezuela and terrorist groups. “We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection,” he said, referring to allegations of links between the Venezuelan government and the Colombian group FARC and Spanish group ETA.
“We’ve long argued that these allegations are nothing more than fiction,” said Bernardo Álvarez, Ambassador of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Washington, D.C. “We’re happy that at least one U.S. official was honest enough to admit the truth and put to rest any myths about Venezuela’s supposed links to terrorist groups.”
Critics of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chávez, have long claimed that the government has worked with terrorist groups, though such claims have been limited to innuendo and have lacked any verifiable evidence to back them up. Recently a Spanish judge accused Venezuela of working with FARC and ETA to assassinate senior Colombian government officials, though he presented no objective evidence to substantiate the claim. The judge’s accusation centered around a Spanish-Venezuelan citizen, Arturo Cubillas Fontán, who has lived in Venezuela since 1989 under an agreement between former Venezuelan President Carlos Andrés Pérez and former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González.
In the wake of the accusation, on March 6, 2010, the Spanish and Venezuelan governments issued a joint statement in which they condemned terrorism and pledged to continue working together to fight it.
Various members of the U.S. Congress have periodically introduced legislation that would add Venezuela to the U.S.’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, using unsubstantiated claims as their rationale. Such a move would impose dramatic sanctions on Venezuela, severely impacting the steady commercial relationship between the two countries and export of oil from Venezuela to the U.S.
“No one should play politics with a matter as serious as terrorism,” commented Ambassador Alvarez. “Fighting terrorism requires honesty, cooperation and consistency. Accusing countries that have political differences with the U.S. of being ‘terrorists’ not only cheapens the threat that we all face from real terrorist groups, but it also makes global cooperation on the issue that much harder to achieve.”
Doubts over the alleged links between Venezuela and terrorism have been raised before. In 2008, José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), remarked, “Does Venezuela support terrorist groups? I don't think so…There is no evidence, and no member country, including this one [the U.S.] has offered the OAS such proof.”
One matter related to cooperation between the U.S. and Venezuela remains pending. In 2005, Venezuela requested the extradition of Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban-Venezuelan dual citizen with links to the CIA who is accused of the 1976 bombing of a civilian airliner that killed 73 people. The administration of President George W. Bush dragged its feet with respect to Posada’s case, and the man known as the “Osama bin Laden of Latin America” remains free in South Florida.
“If the U.S. wants to prove that the fight against terrorism is motivated by principle and not politics, it should immediately arrest Posada and extradite him to Venezuela,” argued Ambassador Álvarez. “The families of 73 people have waited for justice for 34 years, and justice will elude them while Posada remains free.”
Photo by: Néstor Sánchez
Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to the U.S Press and Communications Office / March 11, 2010