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Hugo Chávez’s Long Shadow

The Venezuelan dictator’s legacy of violence will outlast him.

Oct 17, 2011, Vol. 17, No. 05 • By VANESSA NEUMANN
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In addition to domestic terrorism, there is support for international terrorism, and regardless of what happens in the December 2012 presidential elections, it will be difficult to put an end to it. Thousands of foreign terrorists have been given national identity cards that identify them as Venezuelan citizens and give them full access to the benefits of citizenship. In 2003, Gen. Marcos Ferreira, who had been in charge of Venezuela’s Department of Immigration and Foreigners, said that he had been asked by Chavez’s former deputy head of intelligence to allow the illegal entry of Colombians into Venezuela. Moreover, Venezuela’s intelligence service, then known as the DISIP, regularly fast-tracked terrorists, including Hezbollah and al Qaeda members, into the system. 

FARC and Venezuela also collaborated on arms deals with foreign governments. FARC secretariat member Luciano Marín brokered an arms deal as part of Venezuela’s weapons purchase from Russia. Chávez attempted to broker a similar deal with Belarus, wherein Venezuela would sell oil to Belarus and accept black market weapons for the FARC as partial payment, thereby allowing Venezuela to subsidize FARC weapons purchases while avoiding the usual trails of both serial numbers and finance. Cuba and Iran are also involved in training the FARC. 

The United States has committed blood, treasure, time, and prestige to waging a global war on terrorism in the Middle East. There’s no reason to ignore this growing threat in its own backyard.

Vanessa Neumann is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, where she is a specialist in Latin America and terrorism.

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