Venezuela

None of us who are believers of individual freedom are fans of Hugo Chavez.  But it seems that the situation is growing more worrisome by the day.

The Washington Post outlines the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a searing and authoritative report on the destruction of Venezuela’s political institutions and the erosion of freedom under President Hugo Chávez.  It details the fearful deterioration of rights in the country, and the blind eye the Organization of American States (OAS) has turned to those events.

The report details facts and events that document how Mr. Chávez’s regime has done away with judicial independence, eliminated opposition media, stripped elected opposition leaders of their powers, and used mafia-style tactics to silence human rights groups.  And according to the Post, that may be scratching the surface:

Particularly shocking is the commission’s account of the role that violence and murder have played in Mr. Chávez’s concentration of power. The report documents killings of journalists, opposition protesters and farmers; it says that 173 trade union leaders and members were slain between 1997 and 2009 “in the context of trade union violence, with contract killings being the most common method for attacking union leaders.” The report says that in 2008 Venezuela’s human rights ombudsman recorded 134 complaints of arbitrary killings by security forces, 87 allegations of torture and 33 cases of forced disappearance. It also asserts that radical groups allied with Mr. Chávez “are perpetrating acts of violence with the involvement or acquiescence of state agents.”

Then comes this news from Spain.  A Spanish judge accused Venezuela Monday of collaborating with Basque separatist militants and Colombian rebels, and said these two groups plotted to assassinate Colombia’s president.

Judge Eloy Velasco wrote that a Spanish probe launched in 2008 has turned up evidence “that demonstrates Venezuelan governmental co-operation in the illicit collaboration between FARC and ETA.”  FARC is the terrorist/revolutionary group that has committed multiple kidnappings in Columbia, and to this day is financially supported by Venezuela.  ETA is the Basque separatist group that has been committing terror acts in Spain for decades.

The judge identified a suspected ETA member, Arturo Cubillas Fontan, as a key figure in links between ETA and the FARC. This man lives in Venezuela, has held a job in the government of President Hugo Chavez and may still have one, the judge wrote.  Judge Velasco said ETA and the FARC have been collaborating since 1993.

The most serious charge is that ETA members have received training in FARC rebel camps, and FARC members traveled to Spain to try to kill former Colombian president Andres Pastrana and the current president, Alvaro Uribe, with help from ETA, Judge Velasco wrote.

The links between Chavez, FARC, and ETA are more than minor.  There has been allegations, and some proof, that Venezuela has supported these groups financially and with military arms.  That is not to mention the outward moral support Chavez supplies to these causes.

The question that obviously arises is how long the U.S. government is going to provide tacit approval of Venezuela’s actions.  Obama heavily defended his oft criticized meetings and handshakes with Hugo Chavez early last  year.  It has not helped matters.  In December 201o, Hugo Chavez basically appointed himself unchallenged leader of Venezuela.  He then proceeded to refuse the acceptance of Obama’s choice for Ambassador, virtually challenging Obama to cut off diplomatic ties.  Obama, taking his first stand against Chavez ever, threw out the Venezuelan Ambassador, but did not cut off diplomatic ties.

The U.S. does have the ability to hurt Venezuela.  Their primary export is oil…highly sulfuric crude oil.  America is really the only major worldwide consumer that is able to refine such crude.  Cutting off those exports to the U.S. would increase our energy costs, but would cripple Chavez.  It is at least something to consider.

Obama’s policy toward Chavez has not worked in any manner.  The question, however, is at what point do we separate Venezuela from simply being a ‘bad actor’ who can be reformed, versus a true terrorist state that has the potential to cause damage through out the Western Hemisphere.