With the initial confirmation that the information on the computer captured by Colombia in its fight against FARC are legitimate, and INTERPOL has yet to weigh in on the data, there is one part that stands out in the Wall Street Journal report of 09 MAY 2008 by Jose de Cordoba and Jay Solomon:
One email, apparently sent by a FARC commander known as "Timochenko" to the guerrillas' ruling body in March 2007, describes meetings with Venezuelan naval-intelligence officers who offer the FARC assistance in getting "rockets." The Venezuelans also offer to help a FARC guerrilla travel to the Middle East to learn how to use the rockets.
Colombian military analysts believe the reference is to shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, a weapon that the guerrillas desperately need if they hope to blunt Colombia's recent gains. "The FARC realizes that its military problem is air power," says Gen. Oscar Naranjo, who heads the country's national police.
This is one of those times where all that previous work on organized crime, international arms sales and such comes in handy! Looking up for one of the first hits on FARC and the Middle East we come to one of the very interconnected individuals in this realm: Monzer al-Kassar! This from the Kesher Talk archives of 22 MAR 2002 looking at an overseas assassination(unfortunately the UPI link is dead):
Lebanese multimillionaire's death stirs controversy: Michael Youssef Nassar, 39, a Lebanese multimillionaire, died earlier this week in Sao Paulo in a gangland-style slaying. Police are stymied not by a lack of suspects, but rather, that there are so many. While there is some speculation that Nassar was silenced by the Israelis because of his involvement with the Lebanese Christian militia's massacres in the Palestinian Sabra and Chatilla refugee camps in 1982, a report on the Lebanese Foundation for Peace Web site claims that Nassar and his wife were killed by Hezbollah. Nassar's fiscal dealings were sufficiently convoluted that he was under investigation by the intelligence services of the United States, Britain, France and Israel at the time of his death. His shady dealings during his six years in Brazil attracted the attention of the local authorities, impressed by his 300 percent profits on his real estate holdings. Nassar enriched himself enormously in the aftermath of the end of the Lebanese civil war, when he and his business partner Syrian Monzer al Kassar supplied surplus Falangist weaponry to eager clients ranging from Colombia's FARC rebels to the Taliban. Fleeing Lebanon in fear of his life, Nassar first went to Romania, where he got involved in cigarette smuggling. Brazilian investigators are seeking leads among the country's 7 million Lebanese immigrants, but are making little headway, where the average immigrant admires Nassar's ability to compile a $200 million fortune in his brief 39-year life. (United Press International: UPI hears ...)
From one man's death comes many connections, but with Hezbollah looking to take him out, and all his crossing of international problems there is one man who gets very connected then and now, and that is Monzer al-Kassar. And with the involvement of al-Kassar a Hezbollah rub-out comes distinctly possible as it could be 'just business' to sell out Nassar by al-Kassar as he has close ties to Hezbollah. That is due to the city of Baalbeck in the Bekaa Valley as described in this WorldNetDaily report of 30 JUL 2000 by Anthony LoBaido:
Some of these soldiers will maintain the Syrian radar net that dots the landscape. Others will serve as overlords to the various heroin-cultivating outposts in the region. Still others will serve as advisers at a multitude of terrorist training camps quartering bad boys from the four corners of the Earth.
From Armenia, Palestine, Japan, North Korea, Turkey and India they have come -- disaffected paramilitary groups ready to take up arms for what they perceive to be right and just.
Posters and pictures of Hizbollah leaders Ayatollah Khomeini and Hassan Nasrallah -- and even a museum display under the temple ruins of Hizbollah's military adventures -- are a paramount feature of Baalbeck. (WorldNetDaily also found several posters featuring photos of Michael Jackson and Madonna. The posters call for their summary execution for "moral crimes" against humanity and offer a $10 million reward paid in gold bullion). The town serves as the headquarters of Hizbollah or "The Party of God," the Syria- and Iran-backed terror group that has pestered Israel mercilessly since the party's inception in the early 1980s.
In a page out of Alan Greenspan's worst nightmare, Shiite Muslims, with the help of Iranian special intelligence agents, are frantically printing "Supernotes" -- U.S. hundred-dollar bills that rival North Korea's for their counterfeiting excellence. German marks are also counterfeited in the Bekaa.
Syria's role in the Bekaa goes back to January 6, 1976. Ironically, Syria had joined up with Lebanon's Christian Phalange against the Palestinians and other Muslims in Lebanon's internecine conflict. Abu Nidal and his terrorist friends then started attacking Syrian positions in response to Syria's siding with the Christians. In short order, Syrian troops and their brutal secret police destroyed Lebanon's elected government of Michel Aoun and implemented a campaign of media censorship and police-state tactics.
Countless millions of dollars are siphoned off from Lebanon and into Syria on an annual basis. Lebanon cannot export any goods into Syria, while on the other hand, Syria can unload an unregulated amount of goods onto the Lebanese market.
A harvest of opium
Larry Martines, a professor and terrorism expert who works with the U.S. government, told WorldNetDaily: "The Bekaa Valley is home to a great deal of heroin cultivation. It is controlled by the Syrian military. If they, even for one second, think that you are a DEA agent, you will simply disappear."
The Bekaa Valley is fertile and well designed for the cultivation of opium poppies. Rifat Assad, the brother of recently deceased Syrian President Hafez Assad, was well known as the head honcho who ran the Syrian drug operation in the Bekaa. The 30,000 Syrian troops he dispatched to the Bekaa are a testament to the monetary importance of heroin as a cash crop.
According to the Mossad intelligence officer interviewed by WorldNetDaily in Zahlah, "The CIA has made a secret deal to protect the Syrian drug pipeline. This was done vis-à-vis promises that the Syrians (led by El-Khassar) would help to get American hostages released from captivity in Lebanon. One agreement, as everyone now knows, involved 'CIA One.' They protected the Syrian-Bekaa drug flow from Lebanon through the airport in Frankfurt, Germany, and into the United States. The DEA was also involved, mainly for purposes of plausible deniability.
"I remember when the Defense Intelligence Agency group working out of Beirut led by Maj. Charlie McKee had a devil of a time trying to track and rescue the U.S. hostages being held in Lebanon. We kept trying to explain to him why he wasn't getting the cooperation he needed from the other U.S. agencies. But in the end, everyone found out about 'CIA One.' Talk about your dances with wolves."
The number of terror groups receiving training in the Bekaa is stupefying. For example, there's the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia. It is a Marxist-Leninist terrorist group formed in 1975. The group's goal is to force the government of Turkey to publicly admit its guilt for the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians killed back in 1915. The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia wants monetary compensation as well as their own homeland. The group's leader, Hagop Hagopian, was assassinated in Greece in 1998.
The Japanese Red Army is also operating in the Bekaa, led by Fusako Shigenobu. The Red Army wants to overthrow the Japanese government and monarchy. Chemists and agricultural high-tech experts from Japan's Om Shin Ri Kyo cult are also sporadically posted in the Bekaa. Their expertise and elite scientific training are highly prized by groups wanting to gain skills in biological and biochemical warfare.
Perhaps the best-armed and most well-trained group in the Bekaa Valley is the Kurdish Workers Party. They want to set up a Marxist state in southeast Turkey where a large population of Kurds reside.
The new kids on the block in the Bekaa are from India. Their new anti-Christian terror cult of Ganesh -- a common Hindu god -- is central to the new "Hindu Awakening" of the 1990s. These soldiers and anti-Christian terrorists are known as the "Munnani." They hail from the New Age capital of Madras and are seeking to get hold of an atomic bomb, according to intelligence and terrorism experts.
Having contacts with FARC in that cross-pollinating atmosphere that is 'training for payment' regardless of affiliation, makes them a 'natural' especially as al-Kassar would come calling in Argentina in the late 1980's. This connection would show up to finally catch Monzer al-Kassar in 2007, as Chris Thompson from Consulado General Central Colombia New York would report on 24 JUL 2007:
On February 6, two representatives from the infamous Colombian left-wing paramilitary and drug-trafficking group FARC arrived at a palatial Renaissance estate in Marbella, Spain. While their compadres squatted in the jungle, the two soaked up the Mediterranean opulence of the place, noticing the pool shaped like a four-leaf clover and the mastiffs that patrolled the grounds each night. Their host, a 62-year-old Syrian named Monzer al-Kassar, a/k/a the "Prince of Marbella," has been known to entertain visitors with lamb and dolmas beneath murals of turbaned African servants. But they hadn't come for the cuisine. They were there to talk about killing Americans.
For 30 years, Monzer al-Kassar has been linked to some of history's most notorious international arms deals and terrorist atrocities. He has been accused of aiding in the attempted assassination of an Israeli spy; supplying the weapons used in the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro luxury liner; and seeding the Somali and Bosnian civil wars with countless AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades. Swiss and Spanish officials have repeatedly tried to prosecute him for murder and money laundering, and a small group of private investigators, in conjunction with the United Nations and such groups as Human Rights Watch, have worked to expose his international network of offshore companies, crooked port officials, and Eastern European arms manufacturers. Each time, Kassar beat the rap and returned to his hacienda on the Spanish coast.
At this point Monzer al-Kassar is *still* in Spain with Syria threatening Spain and the US if we don't let him go. Once these FARC representatives told Kassar what they needed, he got to work:
Kassar allegedly promised that "his fight was also with the United States," and got on the phone to secure a few price quotes from contacts in Romania and Yugoslavia. For the cost of up to $8 million, Kassar said, he'd even throw in a small army of mercenaries and train the FARC in how to build improvised explosive devices.
Needless to say this was a 'sting' operation, but his ability to outwit the Spanish legal system and keep himself in Spain, amongst his many contacts, means that his organization is still hard at work. The interesting thing to notice is that beyond the weapons wanted, assault rifles, Dragunov sniper rifles, RPGs and lots of ammo, al-Kassar had quick contacts in the terror community to add in IED training for *free*. That sort of thing normally, one would expect, does not come cheaply, and yet he can guarantee it 'on the spot' and that they would be part of the package deal. That report then goes on to detail much of the major arms deals of al-Kassar, including the North/Secord/Hakim one in Iran/Contra (even though he would claim "I'm not that cheap"! Heh.) and his ability to deliver arms to places under embargo like Somalia. This would include the Israeli Embassy bombing and AMIA Jewish Cultural Center bombings in Argentina which would link Hezbollah to the western hemisphere as seen in this look at the Tri-Border Area of South America by Lt. Col. Philip K. Abbott in the SEP-OCT 2004 issue of Military Review [footnote citations removed]:
Argentine officials believe Hezbollah is active in the TBA. They attribute the detonation of a car bomb outside Israel's embassy in Buenos Aires on 17 March 1992 to Hezbollah extremists. Officials also maintain that with Iran's assistance, Hezbollah carried out a car-bomb attack on the main building of the Jewish Community Center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires on 18 July 1994 in protest of the Israeli-Jordanian peace agreement that year.
In May 2003, Argentine prosecutors linked Ciudad del Este and Foz do Iguacu to the AMIA bombing and issued arrest warrants for two Lebanese citizens in Ciudad del Este. An Iranian intelligence officer who defected to Germany told Argentine prosecutors that Imad Mugniyah was the principal suspect in the Buenos Aires bombings. U.S. officials consider Mugniyah the mastermind of the 1983 suicide bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, which suggests he has direct ties to Hezbollah and Iran. Argentine Jews (and many non-Jews) reportedly feel former Argentine President Carlos Saul Menem, of Syrian ancestry, accepted a bribe to conceal Iran's role in the bombings. Although we cannot confirm the growing radicalization of Islamic communities in the TBA, we must take the possibility into account and closely monitor the situation.
Al-Qaeda is a network of terrorist groups scattered all over the world with a presence in practically every country. Are Osama bin-Laden's operatives also present in the TBA? Local and international media have written about al-Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups setting up training camps in the TBA and even having secret summit meetings in the area, although intelligence and law-enforcement officials have not corroborated these reports. The governments of the three TBA countries say terrorism is not a problem in the region and emphasize that they have never detected terrorist activity or cells there. In December 2002, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and the United States agreed that "no concrete, detailed tactical information . . . support[s] the theory that there are terrorist sleeper cells or al-Qaeda operatives in the TBA."
Even so, U.S. and regional officials worry that illegal activity and commerce in the area fund terrorist groups, primarily Hezbollah and Hamas. Hezbollah relies extensively on Islamic money through the common Arab community practice of remitting funds to relatives in the Middle East. In addition, with the complicity of corrupt local officials, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) paid Brazilian and Paraguayan organized criminal groups to obtain weapons and equipment in exchange for cocaine.
The TBA's exact role in attracting terrorist groups is not entirely clear, but Ciudad del Este's Arab and Muslim community has raised funds through money laundering, illicit drug and weapons trafficking, smuggling, and piracy, with some of the funds reportedly going to Hezbollah and Hamas to support terrorist acts against Israel. The FARC also reportedly maintains a fundraising presence in the TBA. This extensive terrorist financial network also stretches to Margarita Island, Panama, and the Caribbean.
The TBA's dangerous combination of vast ungoverned areas, poverty, illicit activity, disenfranchised groups, ill-equipped law-enforcement agencies and militaries, and fragile democracies is an open invitation to terrorists and their supporters. Undeterred criminal activity, economic inequality, and the rise of disenfranchised groups with the potential to collaborate with terrorists present a daunting challenge.
Terrorism today is transnational and decentralized. International support of a multidimensional counterterrorism strategy is necessary to defeat it. Colombia's less-than-successful counternarcotics strategy demonstrates that unilateral action does not necessarily eradicate or eliminate drug trafficking. The same is true of terrorism. Unilateral action in Afghanistan has not eliminated the global terrorist threat. Without multilateral, cooperative deterrence, terrorist organizations will simply migrate across porous borders to less scrutinized areas. As long as terrorism does not directly affect them, nations in the TBA will place economic considerations ahead of security concerns, seek economic prosperity, and remain reluctant to tighten border controls or place new restrictions on commerce and transportation.
One does not need active terrorist cells to have a terrorist presence in an area: funding and logistics are just as important to terrorist activities as they are to normal military organizations or business activities. Looking at a report by Alessia De Caro from Online Gnosis of JAN 2006 we get this view of what had happened in transnational terrorism in and around Colombia:
Although the Party of God is strenuously employed in Lebanon in the organization of agricultural formation courses, in an attempt to face the re-conversion of the hashish and poppy plantations, prohibited by the Lebanese State, in 1992, Hizbollah has never concerned itself with the illegal ways in which its members have procured the funds to sustain the organization. On the contrary, the drug trafficking profits, which arrive from Latin America, have always been used to solve the social problems of the Lebanese people, in order to win consensus in the country.
Affiliates and cells of Hizbollah are also active in Colombia and Venezuela; the weak governments of these areas and the loose and often uncontrolled borders, have favoured such a phenomenon.
Furthermore, the diffused narcoterrorism in that region is due to the liaison between Hizbollah and the local opposition terrorist groups such as, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
In the wake of the Hizbollah-Columbian example, links with the 'Sendero Luminoso', in Peru, have also been created.
The anti-American ideology, common to these organizations and, above all, the interest in smuggling and other illegal activities to accumulate funds have, substantially, united these different groups.
The level of cooperation between Hizbollah and these groups is still not clear even though it is important to note that in January of 2004, on the occasion of an exchange of prisoners between the Israeli authorities and Hizbollah, Ali Biro was freed: he was a Hizbollah militant and one of the most renowned Middle East drug traffickers connected with FARC.
With regard to the implications of Hizbollah in drug trafficking, one of the most recent arrests in this field, was made by the Paraguayan police in May, 2003. The man arrested was Hassan Dayub, while he was trying to send to Syria, an electric pianola, filled with cocaine. Dayub is a relative of the already mentioned Assad Barakat.
In Latin America, Hizbollah could supply ever increasing logistic and financial support, not only to Al Qaeda, but also to local groups and extend the terrorist targets from the national interests to western and American interests within and outside of South America.
Furthermore, the question of financing could become increasingly difficult to extricate: now that Hizbollah is a majority party in Lebanon, many people – and not only the Arabs – would see nothing wrong in financing a party that has done and does so much good "for the needy people of Lebanon". It will always be more difficult to discern which financing is legal and which is not.
This hypothesis is not advanced haphazardly. With the support of Iran, Hizbollah could start, through local groups, if it hasn't already, to set up in Latin America, the same strategy used in Lebanon to gain popular consensus, by providing for the citizens those things that a weak government has not been able to provide. There are numerous people in Latin America who describe Hizbollah as a "provider of welfare to the needy citizens and defender of the Lebanese rights against Israeli aggression".
Realizing the danger and in an attempt to stem the swelling consensus for the Party of God, the Spanish Government, in the wake of what had been done in France, closed down, at the end of June this year, the Hizbollah television channel al-Manar, which was transmitted to Latin America. The satellite TV company, Hispasat, through which Al Manar was transmitted is, in fact, controlled by the Spanish Government.
The previous government in Colombia, in an attempt to open a series of negotiations with FARC, had ceded to them the formal control of a strip of territory, permitting, in addition, foreign governments to furnish economic assistance to the area in question. Iran, the principle financier of Hizbollah was included in the list of foreign countries permitted to operate in the FARC controlled area and, therefore, it naturally supported the Hizbollah organization.
In the Summer of 2001, the Colombian magistracy determined a scenario of international terrorist link-ups, among which was not only a stable cooperation between FARC, ETA, IRA and a foreign legion of more than 200 terrorists of 18 different nationalities, but also Hizbollah.
At a summit meeting at Cartagena de Indias in Columbia, in October 2003, the news of a regular alliance between FARC and Al Qaeda was announced by Gordon Thomas, Irish expert of terrorism and the secret services.
Thomas spoke again on the theme, in the Columbian weekly, El Espectador, referring to the possible cooperation between Islamic extremist groups and local groups, and after the Madrid massacre of the 11th March, 2004, he accused Al Qaeda. According to Thomas, the ETA did not have the capacity to realize attacks of this nature, unless they had been helped, organized and financed by the Bin Laden organization.
Moreover, arms supplies continue to arrive in the Latin American continent. The US are very worried by the news of the signing, in March of this year in Caracas, of about 20 cooperation treaties between Iran and the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez regime, together with an agreement, ratified with Russia at the beginning of April, regarding the supply of 100 thousand Kalashnikov AK-47.
In addition, there is ever increasing talk about dormant cells of Islamic terrorist groups in other Latin American countries like, for example, the Venezuelan Island, Margarita, at Trinidad and Tobago.
Over the last months, in Haiti, members of an Islamic group, which appears to have ties with Al Qaeda, have provided instruction in the use of arms and explosives to a pro-Aristide gang, at the same time trying to convert the gang members to Islam.
In the Dominican Republic, two radical groups seeking technical and financial support, seem to have established contacts with Islamic radicals. Al Qaeda appears to have had ties in the country of Nicaragua for some time, and it is believed that it is now pushing groups to undertake terrorist attacks against the government.
According to what the German newspaper, "Der Spiegel" published in June of this year, in the south of Mexico, a veritable conversion to Islam activity is underway, conducted by many Moslems of "doubtful origins", who have carried out an activity of proselytism and have already recruited hundreds of Maya natives.
So when you hear about FARC rebels contacting Venezuelan Naval personnel to get them weapons, like SAMs, that is not only *not* a laughing matter but something that may only be extraordinary in the type of weapons involved. The contacts between Hugo Chavez and multiple groups in South America is fleshed out by Jose Noguera at Center for Security Policy on 23 MAR 2008, and concentrates on FARC and ELN, here picking p the trail after failed revolutionary groups in Venezuela failed to get anywhere:
The overwhelming defeat suffered by the guerrilla groups made them rethink their strategy. They decided the best way to achieve their goals was to infiltrate the armed forces. In 1970, their first contact was established between former Lieutenant William Izarra and Douglas Bravo. Then in 1971, Hugo Chavez entered the Military School and immediately established contacts with the PRV through his brother, Adam, and began organizing the clandestine Bolivarian Revolutionary Movement (MBR) to recruit other military personnel for the revolution. The failed coup that Hugo Chavez led in 1992 was organized in cooperation with the clandestine organizations MBR, PRV, Red Flag and the Socialist League.
Adam not only introduced his brother, Hugo, to Marxism but also provided him with the necessary contacts to the Venezuelan guerrillas as well as to their Colombian counterparts, with whom their Venezuelan mates had had a long-standing relationship. The first contact between Hugo Chavez and the Colombian guerrillas was made through two members of the Colombian Army, Majors German Cadena Montenegro and Mario Alberto Galeano, who collaborated with the now dissolved guerrilla group M-19 since they were in the Colombian military school. Those contacts and activities did not represent a major threat until the 1992 coup changed the political situation in Venezuela, and the difficult economic situation made Venezuelans look for unconventional alternatives that made Chavez popular.
When Hugo Chavez left prison in 1994, he visited Colombia, where Majors Cadena and Galeano, by that time already retired, received him. Chavez then stayed in Colombia for six months, adopting the nickname of Commander Centeno, while establishing contacts with the Colombian Marxist narco-guerrilla group, the National Liberation Army (ELN). At this time Chavez proposed to the ELN that they organize a joint Colombian-Venezuelan guerrilla force in order to fight a "true independence war." That same year, Chavez established contacts with the other major Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC. This contact was made by Ramon Rodriguez Chacin. It is now well-documented that the FARC gave money to Chavez when he was in jail, and most likely, in 1998, during his first electoral campaign.
From Colombia, Chavez traveled to Cuba where he established contacts with Fidel Castro. Later, in 1999 when Chavez began his first presidential term, the retired Colombian Majors Cadena and Galeano join his Bolivarian Movement 2000 with the mission of winning adherents within the Colombian Armed Forces, as a means of destabilizing democracy inside Colombia. Since then, Chavez has repeatedly tried to establish direct contacts with the Colombian Armed Forces and did so again by talking directly with the chief of the Colombian Armed Forces, General Mario Montoya, against the wishes of the President of Colombia. That is why President Uribe decided to remove Chavez as a mediator in trying to free some of the hostages from the Colombian guerrillas. Once fired, Chavez became so mad that he insulted President Uribe, and stated that Venezuela does not have borders with Colombia but with the FARC's territory.
Yet, recent events indicate that the exact position of the FARC's second in command was detected from a direct phone call from Chavez to Raul Reyes, and among the documents found was one listing a 300 million dollar "donation" that Chavez gave to the Colombian guerrillas. Currently, the FARC operates freely in Venezuela in seven different areas and receives protection from the government. Chavez's closest collaborators are his brother, Adam, his minister of Interior, Ramon Rodriguez Chacin, Jose Vicente Rangel (former presidential candidate of the communist party), Jorge Rodriguez (Socialist League), Minister of Energy Rafael Ramirez (PRV), Minister of Propaganda William Izarra (PRV) and the foreign Affairs Minister, Nicola s Maduro (Socialist League). Now the former Venezuelan guerrillas, the long standing close friends of their Colombian counterparts, are the individuals who now govern Venezuela.
Chavez's close ties to ELN, FARC, PRV and their radical socialist and communist sympathizers and associates in terrorism, has made Venezuela into a country being openly run by terrorists under the Chavez regime. The backing to them, including trying to destabilize other nations, like Colombia via FARC, puts Chavez on a path closer to that of Castro's sending of communist revolutionaries to foster new regimes than anything else. Even more important, however, is the backing by Hugo Chavez of Hezbollah, as seen in this CNSNEWS article by Patrick Goodenough on 07 AUG 2006:
Critics of Israel have found a new champion in Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez, who in recent days has recalled his country's envoy from Israel and compared the Jewish state's military campaign in Lebanon to the actions of Nazi Germany.
After describing the Israeli operation against Hizballah as a "fascist outrage" during his recent visit to Iran, Chavez told the Arabic television network al-Jazeera in an interview broadcast on Friday that the attacks constituted "genocide."
"The Israeli offensive against the Palestinians and Lebanon is an aggression that we feel targets us also," he said. "It is an unjustified aggression that is being carried out in the style of Hitler, in a fascist fashion."
The remarks follow his decision Thursday to withdraw chief of mission Hector Quintero from Caracas' embassy in Tel Aviv, in protest.
Hizballah, which triggered the conflict with a July 12 cross-border raid in which Israeli soldiers were killed and abducted, welcomed Chavez's move.
The vice-chairman of Hizballah's political council, Mahmoud Komati, called it an example for "revolutionaries."
In an interview with Telesur -- the television network based in and funded by Venezuela, and set up by Chavez as a Latin American equivalent of al-Jazeera -- Komati lauded Chavez for a "brave decision" and noted that even Arab governments had not taken the step.
The envoy's withdrawal also has drawn strong support from other quarters.
Jordan's Islamist political party praised Chavez, while condemning the Jordanian and Egyptian governments for not severing diplomatic relations with Israel. The two Arab countries are the only ones to have concluded peace treaties and established full diplomatic ties with Israel.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt has spearheaded calls for Arab governments to cut ties with Israel and to allow citizens to travel to the warzone to fight against Israel.
Meanwhile, an Illinois-based, pro-Venezuelan Internet site VHeadlines.com, said Sunday it was being "inundated with emails from the Arab world thanking President Chavez for having the moral conviction [to have recalled the envoy]."
And in London, left-wing lawmaker George Galloway told an anti-Israeli protest rally that Chavez was a "real leader of the Arab people." (He also named other "real leaders of the Arab people," including Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah and ailing Cuban President Fidel Castro.)
Hugo Chavez, then, is not only giving verbal support to Hezbollah, but also creating a lovely television network for them in Venezuela! Chavez is also taking a further hand than that according to a Venezuela Today article by Gustavo Coronel of 02 SEP 2006 (Via Google cache, so it may not be there much longer) Chávez joins the terrorists: his path to martyrdom:
On the Venezuelan side of the Guajira Peninsula, a territory shared with Colombia, the members of the tribe of the Wayuu walk across political boundaries without restrain. They were there before Venezuela and Colombia existed and they think of themselves as a nation. Recently a disturbing group has appeared, as alien visitors, in their desert landscape: Hezbollah. The Islamic fanatics of Hezbollah are rapidly infiltrating the tribe of the Wayuu. They are indoctrinating the members of this tribe, to convert them into Islamic fanatics in charge of disseminating the terrorist message that has already created chaos, death and misery in the Middle East. The Hezbollah group invading Venezuela is doing its work openly in the Venezuelan side of the Guajira Peninsula.
And that is accompanied by this image so that folks know where this is happening:
Gustavo Coronel then looks at the three Chavez strategies:
The three Chávez strategies
In order to do this he is conducting a three-pronged strategy: (1), one, rather orthodox, which consists in buying weapons, some US$5 billion worth, from Russia, Spain and Belarus: multi-role fighter aircraft, helicopter gunships, assault rifles and more from Russia corvettes and patrol boats from Spain; and Russian anti-aircraft missile systems from Belarus in order to dissuade U.S. military action. (2), an oil-oriented strategy, basically designed to threaten the U.S. with less petroleum supplies. He is scaling down and selling Citgo's assets in the U.S. at low prices, in order to protect himself from the freezing of oil assets in the U.S. He is trying to enlist China as a replacement client for the U.S. by promising that country, quite unrealistically, 500,000 barrels of oil per day within the next five years. The Chinese know that this is an empty promise but they will try to get as much oil as they can out of Chávez, for as long as he lasts, while laughing secretly about his flamboyant behavior. As a follow up to this strategy he is also talking to Iran about pushing for higher prices within Opec and encouraging, through promises of money, relatively minor international oil players like the dictator of Chad, the Bolivian president Evo Morales and the Ecuadorian government to become more aggressive against the mostly U.S. foreign multinationals. The visit of Chávez to Angola should be seen as an obvious move to attack U.S. vulnerability on oil imports. Angola produces over one million barrels of oil per day of excellent quality and almost 600,000 barrels per day are exported to the U.S. Any restrictions on this supply, if combined with restrictions of Venezuelan oil supplies, would have a dramatic impact on the U.S. economy, especially when reinforced by other actions such as the recent move against the U.S. petroleum companies by the dictator of Chad.
The strategies mentioned above are, of course, very damaging to the Venezuelan people but, while particularly harmful to U.S. national interest, they do not pose an immediate large-scale threat of all-out violence in the hemisphere. There is a third strategy being pursued by Chávez that could become the most dangerous in this respect. It has to do with the possible acquisition of weapons of mass destruction from North Korea or Iran and other weapons from Syria. Chávez and his deputies have visited Iran numerous times during the last seven years. He has explicitly formed a political alliance with Ahmadinejad. During his last visit he asked for God to "send bolts of lighting ... upon the monsters," ending this request by saying: "Inshallah," (ojalá in Spanish, God willing in English).
Of course, in Chávez's mind these bolts would be missiles or, even worse, nuclear bombs. The National Council of Resistance of Iran has said that Iran will be able to start constructing nuclear bombs by next year, in installations located to the Northeast of Tehran. A report by Rowan Scarborough in The Washington Times (August 31, 2006) says that the U.S. military estimates that an Iranian nuclear bomb is still five years away but, he adds, it would be dangerous to believe that there is plenty of time to act. In the case of Iraq, he says, it was found that the Hussein regime was much closer to producing nuclear weapons than the U.S. had estimated and the same could be true in the case of Iran. Nuclear weapons are essential for the consolidation of an Islamic empire, claims the National Council of Resistance of Iran, asking for immediate action against the regime of Ahmadinejad.
Note that the operational equipment suppliers for conventional weapons are Spain, Russia and Belarus. This work to bolster himself and expand the reach of Hezbollah is going into disturbing regions beyond the Wayuu tribe, as seen by Massimo Introvigne at Centro Studi sulle Nuove Religioni (CESNUR) on 24 MAR 2007, looking first at Teodoro Rafael Darnott (Commander Teodoro) with the Wayuu:
WIth the blessing of President Chávez, and with the methods of an old guerrlla leader, Comnader Teodoro has proclaimed Catholic missionaries "personae non gratae" over a vast tribal area (for the Protestant missionaries it's even worse: Chavez calls them agents of American imperialism), while proclaiming the Shi'ite iranian missionaries very very welcome. Estimates vary as to the result of this experiment - converts according to Teodoro and Iran come to several thousand, while anthropologists and journalists who have penetrated the area say they are fewer than a thousand - howver a whole tribe, the Wayuu, has accepted the good news from Teheran.
The press of the Venezuelan regime has started printing strange photographs of veiled Indio women, but also of hooded militants practicing with their kalashnikovs and even their bomb-belts: not in Lebanon but in Venezuela. The experiment is turning out rather well, so much so that the Iranians and Chavez have launched two more, which are already on their feet: Hezbollah Chiapas, in the areas under the control of Subcommander Marcos, and Hezbollah El Salvador. Also new are Hezbollah Chile and Hezbollah Columbia. Considering how fond our President of the House of Representatives, Fausto Bertinotti, is of Chávez and of Subcommander Marcos, all we need wait for now is for a Hezbollah Montecitorio (ie, the Italian Parliament).
The Real Danger
But these are not necessarily harmles groups. On Oct 23rd 2006 the police arrested a university student in Caracas, one José Miguel Rojas Espinosa, who was about to detonate two bombs, one against the American Embassy and another against the Israeli Embassy. After planting the first bomb, Rojas got scared and dropped the second one outside a school, which led the police to seeking the first one and foiling the attack. Hezbollah Venezuela laid claim to the failed attack and defines Rojas on its website as “the first mujaheddin to be an example of dignity and strength in the cause of Allah, the first prisoner of war in Venezuela of the Revolutionary Islamic Movement”. Strangely enough, the Chávez Administration has taken no steps against Commander Teodoro and Hezbollah Venezuela, and has played down the planned attacks calling them “demonstrations”.
Commander Teodoro is not finicky when it comes to recluting enemies of the US and Israel. So together with the Koran and with the proclamations of Khamenei, his group reprints and spreads around texts by the late Peron-style Argentinian social scientist Norberto Rafael Ceresole, a Holocaust-denier , hovering between neo- Nazi tendencies and the little sedevacante schisms which consider the latest Popes illegitimate since they are too "progressive" and "favorable to Jews". Ceresole is also always suspected of being in contact with the perpetrators of the attack on the building of the Jewish community in Buenos Aires in 1994 (something that, however, the police has never been able to prove).
The numbers, for the moment, are against Commander Teodoro. Not only do the deep roots of Catholicism make it difficult for Iranian propaganda to produce a number of Latin American Muslims beyond a ratio of zero point something, but so does the spectacular growth of Protestantism.
Latin America is not about to convert to Islam and Chavez's initiatives keep swaying between reality, fantasy and a propaganda that often borders on the ridiculous.
But all it takes to plant bombs are a few terrorists, and Shi'ite Indios also constitute a mafia-style warning by Chavez to the Catholic Church. If it continues to oppose the regime, in tribal zones Iranian missionaries are ready to replace the Catholic ones.
Mossimo Introvigne is pointing at something that should be obvious: the difference between terrorist groups (of any stripe) and organized crime groups is faint at the best of times. Mafia organizations have a strong ability to continue existing even when openly opposed by governments at all levels (local, state/provincial, national), and our own history, not to speak of Italy's, is proof of that. While the actual backing organizations for the late 19th century Chicago criminal organizations are gone, their descendents and imitators are still in Chicago and heavily swaying politics and city government to their own ends. Similar has been seen in Italy, Japan, Taiwan, China, India, Pakistan and even Iran which still, to this day, rails against narcotics flowing into Iran via drug traffickers not under their control.
Hugo Chavez by utilizing the Hezbollah 'brand name' and 'first cause' to radicalism is little different than Castro using Marxist/Leninist ideology or China exporting Maoist teaching to places like Peru or Nepal. While the organizations spawned from those 'first cause' associations may have little or nothing to do with their progenitors, they continue on in hybrid form by mixing how they get their funds (via criminal activity) and their ideology, no matter *what* that may be. While the direct 'first cause' Hezbollah in Lebanon has strong ideology, their South American and Southern European counterparts have strongly drifted into the criminal areas, so that the resultant groups, while still espousing and supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, have little in appearance to that originating group. Chavez, by pushing that first, strong appeal to get recruits to violence, is also creating an organized crime organization that is directly married to it. Why not? The ORIGINAL Hezbollah depends on the Kassar family control of the Bekaa opium production capabilities, overseen by the Syrian government.
This brings up a disturbing long-term possibility, although a faint one at best: that Iran (if it fails through internal collapse or external push) now has a reliable 'back-up' for running the Hezbollah operation in Hugo Chavez. Even if he is far from perfect, his ability to adapt to Shia support of the Iranian variety to push his own ends indicates that the actual teachings do get promulgated. Hezbollah would take a very hard hit, of course, as Venezuela and Hugo Chavez, do not have the resources to run the high-octane Lebanon operation as it still stands: the industrial infrastructure for things like missile production is missing in Venezuela. That said, Chavez is a direct link for acquiring the end-products from other nations (Spain, Russia, China, North Korea, Belarus) so as to ensure some long-term lethal capability remains even absent Iran. And getting his organizational operation into fronting the Bekaa drug trade is an extremely lucrative proposition for the long term, going into the billions if not tens of billions of dollars in profit annually as he would be eliminating a number of 'middlemen' in the distribution chain currently taken up by smaller mafia outfits in Albania, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and places like Algeria.
A closer equivalent to what is happening, although purely on a secular side, is Syria: where a strong family rules via authoritarian means and supports multiple terror organizations (Hezbollah, HAMAS, PKK, GIA) while seeking to get stronger industrial backing for conventional weapons and WMDs. Syria, itself, acts as a form of 'Grand Mafia Boss' over the smaller families with longer-term ties to organized crime, and utilizes that network due to the actual paucity of natural resources and production capability, to seek similar ends to protect itself. By going after the asymmetrical chem/bio/nuclear weapons, Syria need not field a modern or even very capable military to continue being a threat in the region. By facilitating terrorism and organized crime and taking a profit from that trade (either via a form of 'taxation' or kickbacks) is able to continue on while providing to the minimal needs of its population.
That design template, when shorn of its Alawite basis and Ba'athist supporters, is the rough outline for a future Venezuela under Chavez: ruled in an authoritarian fashion, where state-supported religious views are allowed and others that are attacked go uncondemned, where terrorists can come and go with relative safety to conduct business and training, while the regime utilizes a declining infrastructure and petroleum industry to allow expansion of terrorism and the narcotics trade, which it will take some funds 'off the top' for providing these services. Then things look less Marxist Revolutionary and more along the lines of 'Don Chavez', ruthless mafioso out for personal power and entrenching his organization on a regional basis. And once such a mafia starts, it will be very, very hard to uproot even once Chavez is no longer on the scene as the organization will continue on.
And as Colombia can attest to: it is very, very hard to get rid of extremists touting an ideology that act like mafia.
FARC has been like that for 40 years and is *still* around.