Saturday, March 13, 2010

Mar 13/10 | Realigning State Dept. and Southcom on Venezuela-FARC links: Joint Diagnosis but Cure Still Elusive

Did this General & blogger need call with A/S Arturo Valenzuela to see the light on Chávez-FARC link?

PMBComment | In his Blog, Southcom's Commander, General Doug Fraser, clarified what seemed like factual differences with Assistant Secretary Arturo Valenzuela (see AFP article below) about ties between the Bolivarian Government of Venezuela and the FARC. Short and to the point, this blog post requires no further comment. But a question remains: What are the logical consequences of "clear and documented historical and ongoing evidence of the linkages between the Government of Venezuela and the FARC"?

From the contradiction that gets "cleared up" by Fraser's blog post, it would seem the USG is having real trouble defining next steps despite having plenty of troubling - and connecting - dots on their various Venezuelan charts. It is NOT hard to understand the reasons why adding Venezuela to the public list of "hot spots" is not an appealing prospect for the Obama team. First and foremost, many in the region do not want to lend their support and expect the US to do the dirty work and rid the neighbourhood - one way or the other - of this dangerous threat. The fact is that Brazil's Lula da Silva has had a lot to do with empowering a man who funded his original campaign with copious resources (study the Jose Dirceu-Marco Aurelio Garcia Cuba axis) and has awarded billions of dollars of no-bid contracts to some of Brazil's largest companies. The last thing Lula wants, as he struggles to insure his legacy, is for an irate Chávez to disclose the money trails in reprisal for what he would clearly perceive as betrayal. Mexico and Chile have been conspicuously silent. Spain has been clearly complicit, and Colombia's Uribe, surprisingly flippant in the treatment of a counterpart that will outlast him and continue to threaten Colombia despite oodles of evidence of all kinds of criminal mingling in its domestic affairs. Washington cannot be the Hemisphere's cop, but what probably troubles the likes of Fraser, Valenzuela and Dan Restrepo (NSC) is that evidence continues to pile up, first and foremost, on theirs desks, while logical allies bury their heads deeper in the sand. One of the unfortunate consequences of having a formidable 24/7 intelligence apparatus is that you can claim a lot of things but seldom ignorance.

To make matters worse, the domestic political debate in Venezuela can best be described as a bunch of school children preparing very hard for their Biology exam without realizing that the subject in which they are about to be tested is Math. The links with FARC, ELN, ETA, Iran, drug cartels (including mafia elements from Russia and Belarus), the Cuban stranglehold, the obliteration of PDVSA, the inoperability of the over-politicized and corrupted armed forces, and the 8 million small weapons on the street and the thousands of combat weapons in the hands of all sort of militias, are just but a short list of grave subjects that are seldom part of the noisy discussion taking place among politicians and aspiring politicians in today's Venezuela. All of these grave matters are critical for the immediate health of the country, and more so to its future governability. Some of them have direct impact beyond the borders of Venezuela, and some involve clearly identified global threats. The reasons these are not discussed openly are plain ignorance, demonstrable ineptitude and/or obvious intimidation.

Some still like to pretend that Mr. Chávez and his many criminal allies will abandon power via elections. This naivete is dangerous and can actually lead to a state of complacency that these thugs - local and foreign, state and non-state - will exploit with obvious skill and delight. A peaceful transfer of power has never occurred when the consequences for the losers are so dire. The Venezuela of Hugo Chávez has become operating base and safe haven for some of the most nefarious elements in today's convoluted world, so we must all stop paying lip service to pretty concepts and focus on the unsavory facts that people in the know, in Venezuela, Washington and beyond, are having to stare at with no obvious remedy. PMB

Posted On: Mar 12 2010 5:08PM

Yesterday I testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee and fielded a question from Senator McCain pertaining to the Government of Venezuela (GoV) facilitating contacts between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Euskadi Ta Askatasuna or ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) during the planning and attempted assassination of Colombian officials, including President Uribe, during their recent visit to Spain.

The Senator also asked about other activities where the GoV was engaged in enabling or supporting terrorist activity in our area of responsibility.

Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela was asked a similar question one day earlier during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Conference on 10 March.

Assistant Secretary Valenzuela and I spoke this morning on the topic of linkages between the government of Venezuela and the FARC. There is zero daylight between our two positions and we are in complete agreement:

There is indeed clear and documented historical and ongoing evidence of the linkages between the Government of Venezuela and the FARC.

We track this and continue to monitor the amount and level of direct support in the form of money, networks, and providing a safe haven for operations and personnel.

In this view and pursuit, we are in direct alignment with our partners at the State Department and the Intelligence Community.

- General Doug Fraser

(AFP) – 1 day ago
WASHINGTON — The general in charge of US military activities in Latin America said Thursday he had no evidence of links between Venezuela's leftist government and Colombian and Basque guerrilla groups.
"We have not seen any connections specifically that I can verify that there has been a direct government-to-terrorist connection," General Douglas Fraser, head of the US Southern Command, told a Senate hearing.
"We have continued to watch very closely for any connections between illicit and terrorist organization activity within the region," he said. "We are concerned about it. I'm skeptical. I continue to watch for it."
Fraser's comments follow charges by a Spanish judge linking alleged assassination plots in Spain by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Basque separatist group ETA to Venezuelan "governmental support."
Venezuela has rejected the charges, which raised tensions with Spain.
Arturo Valenzuela, the assistant secretary of state responsible for Latin American affairs, told another congressional panel Wednesday there had been some evidence of some kind of Venezuelan assistance to the FARC.
Fraser, however, said he was aware only of "old evidence" of assistance.
"But I don't see that evidence. I can't tell you specifically whether that continues or not," he said