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Cablegate: Venezuela: 2008 Country Report On Terrorism

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHCV #1760/01 3571929
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 221929Z DEC 08
FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 2340
INFO RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS CARACAS 001760

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR S/CT (SHORE) AND NCTC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ASEC PTER VE
SUBJECT: VENEZUELA: 2008 COUNTRY REPORT ON TERRORISM

REF: STATE 120019

The following is post's submission for the 2008 Country
Reports on Terrorism on Venezuela. Embassy point of contact
is Political Officer Evan Owen (OwenE@state.gov).

Begin Text

In May 2008, Venezuela was re-certified as "not cooperating
fully" with U.S. antiterrorism efforts under Section 40A of
the Arms Export and Control Act, as amended (the "Act").
Pursuant to this certification, defense articles and services
may not be sold or licensed for export to Venezuela from
October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009. This certification
will lapse unless it is renewed by the Secretary of State by
May 15, 2009.

President Hugo Chavez persisted in his public criticism of
U.S. counterterrorism efforts and deepened Venezuelan
relationships with state sponsors of terrorism Iran and Cuba.
Chavez brokered the unilateral release of six hostages from
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in January
and February. High levels of corruption among Venezuelan
officials combined with Chavez's ideological sympathy for the
FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) severely limited
Venezuelan cooperation with Colombia in combating terrorism.
In January, Chavez called for, and the Venezuelan National
Assembly approved, a resolution that the FARC and ELN be
recognized internationally as belligerent forces, not
terrorist groups.

In March, Chavez called FARC second-in-command Raul Reyes, "a
good revolutionary" and held a national moment of silence
following his death. Chavez also ordered ten Army
battalions, tanks and fighter planes to the Venezuelan border
with Colombia following the Colombian cross-border raid into
Ecuador that killed Reyes. Two FARC fighters were
apprehended in March while seeking medical treatment in
Venezuela. The injured man was taken to a military hospital
for treatment and his companion to a regional penitentiary.
By May however, Venezuelan authorities could not account for
the whereabouts of either man.

Chavez reversed his policy towards Colombian guerrillas in
June and called upon the FARC to unconditionally release all
hostages announcing armed struggle is "out of place" in
modern Latin America. FARC chief of borders and finance,
Gabriel Culma Ortiz, was detained by the Venezuelan National
Guard in July and turned over to Colombian authorities.

The FARC, ELN and right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC) regularly crossed into Venezuelan territory to
rest and regroup as well as to extort protection money and
kidnap Venezuelans to finance their operations.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign
Assets Control (OFAC) in June designated diplomat Ghazi Nasr
al Din and travel impresario Fawzi Kan'an as Venezuelan
Hizballah supporters. In September, OFAC designated two
senior Venezuelan government officials, Hugo Armando Carvajal
Barrios and Henry de Jesus Rangel Silva, and the former
Justice and Interior Minister, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, for
materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities of
the FARC. It remained unclear to what extent the Venezuelan
government provided support to Colombian terrorist
operations. However, limited amounts of weapons and
ammunition, some from official Venezuelan stocks and
facilities, have turned up in the hands of Colombian
terrorist organizations. The Venezuelan government did not
systematically police the 1,400-mile Venezuelan-Colombian
border to prevent the movement of groups of armed terrorists
or to interdict arms or the flow of narcotics.

In another case, two self-proclaimed Islamic extremists were
sentenced in December to 10 years each for placing a pair of
pipe bombs outside the American Embassy in 2006. JosQ Miguel
Rojas Espinoza was found guilty of constructing and placing
the devices while Teodoro Rafael Darnott was culpable for
planning the attack and instigating Rojas to carry it out.

Iran and Venezuela continued weekly Iran Airlines flights
connecting Tehran and Damascus with Caracas. Passengers on
these flights were reportedly only subject to cursory
immigration and customs controls at Simon Bolivar
International Airport. Venezuelan citizenship, identity, and
travel documents remained easy to obtain, making Venezuela a
potentially attractive way station for terrorists.
International authorities remained suspicious of the
integrity of Venezuelan documents and their issuance process.

End Text

CAULFIELD

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